What does bad posture, uneven body symmetry, poor mobility, lack of flexibility, feeling weak and tired, and cellulite all have in common?
They are symptoms of unhealthy fascia!
Now that hot tubes, saunas, steam rooms and massages aren’t possible for most of the country, we thought it would be a great time to pass along some tips to keep your fascia healthy.
Fascia (Latin for “band”) is tough, stretchy and encompasses all muscles and internal organs. It is everywhere. Fascia keeps everything in our body where it belongs. However, we often overlook fascia as something we need to consciously take care of.
Athletes have blamed tight fascia for lack of flexibility, weakness, and poor performance. Now, cutting-edge doctors are pointing to unhealthy fascia for more and more issues from poor posture to cellulite. Following are some tips to keep fascial tissue functioning properly
Have you ever had a loved one walk up behind and rub your traps and neck and exclaim how tight and stressed you feel? Stress causes fascia tissue to become tight and irritated. A lot can be written about stress mitigation but here are the basics:
Do activities that engage the parasympathetic nervous system like taking CBD, sleeping, meditating, yoga, a float tank, a light bike ride or jog, deep sleep, and nature walks. I won’t expound on the autonomic nervous system in this email, but it is imperative to take action to consciously transfer your body from the sympathetic nervous system into the parasympathetic nervous system. Yin and Yang, zig and zag, you get the picture.
Understanding the enteric nervous system can greatly reduce stress as well. The enteric nervous system, commonly known as the “second brain,” is responsible for digestion. There are hundreds of millions of neurons keeping the brain and digestive system in communication. Follow your gut…gut reaction that is. Sometimes following your gut instinct isn’t far off from listening to your brain (although, I wouldn’t balance your check book with your gut!). Anyhow, this nervous system runs from esophagus to anus, taking care of our gastric system.
When we stress out the enteric nervous system, it tells the central nervous system and stress, anxiety, and even depression ensue. How do we de-stress our enteric system? By eating and drinking healthy. I won’t go into diet tips to keep this email manageable, but there are a ton of resources out there. We strongly recommend that people with autoimmune issues do an allergy test just to make sure their “health food” isn’t fighting with their bodies…more on that in another email.
The human body is composed of 60% water. Fascia is a tough, stretchy band but if it is dehydrated, it becomes inflexible and gummy. Therefore, you become inflexible and prone to injury. The fascia should be supple and pliable, gliding and sliding over muscles. Drying it out gums up the connective tissues. When these tissues stick together the muscles cannot function properly, resulting in injury.
I won’t jump into the “how much water should you drink” debate, but here’s a little ratio that makes sense. Take your body weight in pounds, cut it in half and drink that amount water in ounces per day. For example: I weigh (don’t judge) 240 lbs, so I drink 120 ounces per day or fifteen, 8-ounce glasses of water per day. There are 128 ounces in a gallon.
Here is the part of hydration we don’t want to hear: you can’t let yourself become chronically dehydrated and then drink a few glasses of water say, “all better!” Sorry folks. According to studies, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. The human body will “dry up” when we don’t hydrate properly. Sorry for the obvious statement. Think of the earth; the desert doesn’t take on a rainstorm and turn into a rain forest. That’s just a flash flood passing right over the hard-dry earth. It takes days to hydrate properly.
Don’t hydrate with sports drinks and electrolytes, although there is a place and time for that. If you are interested in electrolyte replenishment, do some research on sweat loss tests. However, consuming too much sodium can result in negative side effects. For purposes of everyday hydration, drink plain water.
Be patient. Get into a habit of drinking a lot of water and after a while (up to 60 days!) your whole body will notice the effects of true hydration. The benefits include: healthy looking skin, better smelling breath, more energy, weight loss, and a properly functioning digestive system.
Furthermore, the fascia doesn’t bounce back right away either. Untangling dehydrated connective tissue takes time and work. Once the fascia gets dry and gummed up you must do some work (myofascial release) to get it separated and gliding and sliding over the muscles properly again.
I just love being the one hundredth person to suggest yoga to you, but here it is: look up some online flows or classes. Stretching helps elongate and release tension in muscles. This is a key component of healthy fascia. My whole family enjoys ROMWOD (Range of Motion Workout of the Day). A subscription program that you can download and do at home in front of the computer or TV. Romwod.com, the program is less than $15 per month and consists of workouts (yoga type stretching) that take 15-20 minutes.
Most massage places are closed but hopefully opening up soon! If a massage isn’t an option think self-myofascial release. This is also faster and easier than emotionally manipulating your significant other into some body work.
Massage therapists and body work professionals, we are thinking of you and miss your healing hands!
Commonly referred to as the “poor person’s massage,” self-myofascial release is basically a self-administered massage. As we go through some techniques, keep this in mind – research has found that fascia tissue can withstand 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch! This means that working on the fascia can be uncomfortable at times but remember to relax and let the tissue release.
For under $5 you can purchase the ultimate torture tool. Rolling on the lacrosse ball is a great way release tight fascia. Try sitting on the counter top and sticking a lacrosse ball under your hamstrings, move the ball to find the, “ohh, it hurts so good” areas. Really tough people can even roll on the ground on top of the ball releasing tension in their erectors, upper back, IT bands and lats. On the ground, you can place the ball under a calf (place one leg over the other to add extra pressure). You can also roll out your shoulders and back against a wall.
I won’t expound on all the tools out there, but here are a few self-myofascial release tools – foam rollers, the Hypervolt™ and Theragun™ (think jig saw power tool with fascia pulverizing attachment), Rumble Roller™, Trigger Point™, and the Runner’s Stick™. There are also tools for sale so you can practice the Graston Technique™ on yourself. These tools look like a really thick, very dull knife and are used with emulsion (The Sarco Freeze works well for this) to repetitively rub over acute areas of discomfort.
There is also the Insta-famous Fascia Blaster™ which is a pretty nifty tool that is designed specifically for cellulite. Inconsistencies in the fascia tissue can change the way your skin looks. According to Ashley Black, the creator of the Fascia Blaster™, “Fascia adhesions can pull the skin down and force the fat up, causing dents and dimples commonly known as cellulite”
When working on fascia release, either self-myofascial release or by a professional, using a good full spectrum hemp extraction high in CBD can speed up the process. Cannabinoids will interact with the sensory receptors dampening the pain signals sent to the brain. This is very important because working on the fascia can be uncomfortable! Furthermore, many different CBD products have been paired up with active ingredients that will help the cause. Menthol increases blood flow, arnica helps with inflammation, essential oils like roman chamomile will help sooth muscles and help with muscle spasms.
If you have access to a sauna, heat helps the fascia relax and elongate but apart from just taking care of the fascia. The sauna can help in a slew of different ways. Studies have found that the sauna can help mitigate delayed on set muscle soreness (“DOMS”) post workout. Furthermore, saunas increase circulation and induce the release of endorphins. The near infrared type sauna has also been shown to induce apoptosis (the killing of weak cells- this is good for mitochondrial support). There are also studies circulating which claim the near infrared sauna increases the release of human growth hormone (HGH). Saunas are also a great way to detox.
Conversely, cryotherapy or simply using ice to reduce inflammation can also help maintain healthy fascia. Cryotherapy is pretty neat stuff! In a cryotank temperatures can drop colder than -200 degrees Fahrenheit. This is another great way to help induce apoptosis and decrease full body inflammation in one shot. -200 degrees Fahrenheit may sound scary, but I would take cryotherapy over an ice bath any day of the week!
Pumping iron properly is a great way to keep your muscles long and full, which is great for the fascia. Notice the word “properly;” not using full range of motion or improperly using weights can be harmful. If you don’t know how to lift properly hook up with a trainer or join your local CrossFit box (when they open back up). Do some research on a trainer or a functional fitness type gym, because a bad trainer or coach can/will injure you.
Aerobic exercise is a great way to warm up your body, like the sauna, however from the inside out. Heating up the fascia will keep it pliable; just remember to warm up and cool down properly. The benefits of cardio are numerous and most of them are common knowledge these days….so swim, bike, run, METCON, row, step, pick up some b-ball, just make sure you’re getting it in.
Maintaining healthy fascia is like flossing – it must be routine, done consistently and generously. The good news is that all the things that will help your fascia will also help your overall health. If you are a person that is chronically stiff, inflexible, or injured it might be time to see a physical therapist. Hopefully some of these tips on maintaining healthy fascia helped!
And as always…
Stay healthy, my friends!