When someone notices that they are losing flexibility, they often blame tight muscles. No doubt that tight muscles can inhibit how well a joint or series of joints can be moved through an unrestricted range of motion. But tight muscles aren’t the only reason you can’t touch your toes.
Fascia plays an important role in how well muscles work.
What Is Fascia?
Fascia is connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, bones, organs, and nerves. Fascia is primarily made of collagen, a common protein in the body.
There are three main types of fascia:
- Superficial Fascia. This fascia is located underneath the skin and connects to the deep fascia.
- Deep Fascia. This fascia surrounds muscles and bones.
- Visceral Fascia. This fascia surrounds internal organs.
The fascia over muscles performs the following roles:
- The fascia holds the muscle in its correct place.
- The fascia separates the muscles enabling them to work independently.
- The fascia has a slippery surface so can move more easily against and over each other.
Proper care of fascia can improve range of motion and reduce pain.
How Does Fascia Affect Flexibility?
Since fascia surrounds muscles, unhealthy tight fascia directly affects the muscles’ ability to work optimally. About 50% of your flexibility is determined by the fascia. Much of the joint capsule and 30% of muscles are fascia, so it is evident that fascia can limit flexibility or normal range of motion.
Flexibility is not just useful for dancers and other performers. Flexibility helps you perform tasks in daily life, from picking up something you dropped to reaching for something out of the car’s backseat.
According to some experts in the study of fascia, this connective tissue forms “trains” in various areas of the body. For example, the superficial back line train runs the length of the backside of the body, from the feet to the neck. Like old-fashioned Christmas tree string lights, if one section of fascia along the train is tight, flexibility is reduced throughout the entire train.
Unhealthy fascia affects the body in more ways than flexibility. When movement is restricted because of tight fascia and muscles, you may begin to compensate, altering your movement patterns and creating new imbalances in the body. Over time, these imbalances will create new pains and problems.
Targeting Fascia to Improve Flexibility
Muscle fascia can begin to bind together, due to inactivity or injury, and cause stiffness that limits normal range of motion. Releasing tightness through myofascial release techniques can increase flexibility through the entire fascial train. Focusing on a single area that seems tight will not address the problem because the root of the problem may lie somewhere else along that fascial line.
Myofascial release techniques can reduce or release the tightness in fascia. These techniques are performed by applying a direct force onto the fascia to elongate the tissue and break up adhesions.
In Resistance Flexibility (RF), myofascial tissues are stretched while the person tenses and resists the elongation.
In Active Release Technique (ART), the therapist holds pressure on a trigger point (adhesion) while the patient goes through an active range of motion.
Keeping Fascia Healthy
There are a few leading reasons why fascia becomes dehydrated and inflexible:
- Limited physical movement in daily life
- Repetitive movement that overworks one area of the body
- Trauma to the fascia from an injury or surgery
Proper hydration is a component of overall good health, including caring for fascia. Drinking water helps maintain healthy fascia but drinking alone will not do the trick. Movement must be a part of fascial fitness.
Keeping your fascia healthy by doing the following:
- Exercise with consistency
- Exercise with a variety of movement patterns
- Stretch regularly
- Practice good posture
There are various strategies that work to loosen up painful knots that can collect in fascia:
If you feel tight or are noticing aches and pains, schedule a free evaluation at ProFysio Physical Therapists. We are committed to helping our clients overcome pain and other ailments so they can lead an active, fulfilling life.
Request an appointment online or by calling (732) 812-5200. We have four convenient locations in the Monmouth and Middlesex County area: Aberdeen, East Brunswick, Edison, and Old Bridge.