Restricted movement and pain? Fascia and Fascial release

What is Fascia?

Fascia is connective tissue in a fibrous sheath or band that also consists of layers (think of natural internal packaging). It surrounds every part of your internal body  for example bones, organs, muscles, muscle groups, nerves and basically everywhere inside your body. It gives our internal body structure and freedom to move while reducing friction. Its’ properties are ‘rubber’ or ‘gummy’ like meaning it can stretch to certain extent but also wants to retain its natural shape. Furthermore, fascia contains sensory nerves that can be as sensitive as skin. While it was once overlooked, it has been getting more recognition in recent years.

How does it cause pain?

Over time, fascia not only surrounds or muscles but also runs through them as well. It can thicken or even stick to its surrounding structures and muscles. When this happens the bodies natural movement changes and becomes restricted. A good example of this is like when you go to a hotel and jump into bed trying to wrestle the sheets out from being stuck under the bed. If the sheets weren’t stuck you’d have the freedom of moving them as you wish (I miss vacations). Well that’s what happens when your fascia gets glued down to it’s underlying tissues. It reduces mobility, compresses nerves, impairs muscle tissue function and can often cause pain which trickles to other parts of your body. Since muscles and fascia work so closely together, it is often hard to differentiate between fascia pain or muscle pain but often times will be both. This is why it is becoming more popular and more clinicians integrate fascial release into their practice.

Key points:

– Less mobility (leading to unnatural movement and body mechanics)
– Reduced blood flow
– Nerve compression or over stimulation
– Synergistic muscle (helper muscles) engagement and over compensation in long-term
– Decreased muscle strength

Causes:

– Prolonged inactivity or immobility
– Repetitive overuse of a part of the body
– Injury or strain

What can I do to relieve or prevent this?

  • Be more active: moving more helps to keep fascia supple and increases blood/fluid flow throughout your tissues
  • Stretch often: Releases fascial adhesions and increases blood flow. When your muscles move more freely they don’t have to work so hard!
  • A good warm up: the best way to prevent pain is decreasing your likelihood of injury in the first place. It is always a good idea to have a little warm up routine before any heavy or straining activity.
  • Posture: Being self aware of your body and your posture at all times especially during work or stress is the key to improving your posture.
  • Heat: Fascia along with other parts of the body act a lot like an elastic. When it is warm it has the ability to stretch more. You can get heat pads or take a warm epsom salts bath which is also good for your skin!
  • Foam rolling/massage ball: reduce those restrictions with a foam roller or massage ball if you really need to get deep into the muscles.
  • SEE A PROFESSIONAL: Massage and Physiotherapy is a great way to manage your pain and keep you active. Even if things seem fine now, the best way to continue being healthy is to STAY healthy. Think of preventative maintenance on your Vehicle. Don’t wait until it breaks because it can lead to something worse!

Conclusion

Fascia is just a small part of many things that can cause or contribute to pain. There is normally other issues that need to be addressed as well as underlying conditions you may not be aware of. The truth is, The human body is amazing and also really complex. Physical, emotional and mental stress all have an impact contributing to pain. This is why it’s so important to take care of ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually.

About The Author

Hieu is a Registered Massage Therapist that graduated from Algonquin College in 2013. He has a high interest in fitness/sports and is dedicated in helping his clients maintain optimal health and pain.

2 Comments

  1. Wanja Nyingi

    This is very helpful. I suspect that I have been experiencing pelvic fascia. I had a hysterectomy almost 3 years ago, and to support healing and reduce pain, wore an abdominal support belt for a long time. Thus reduced mobility of the pelvis. Today I experience what I assume is muscle or nerve pain in the pelvic region if I make sudden movements and when carrying out abdominal exercises. I am now more confident to do core exercises and stretches. I was initially afraid of damaging further but now feel that as my core is strengthening, and as I stretch the pelvic more the pain is reducing.

    1. Lily Zhang

      Hi Wanja, thank you for your feedback =).

      Pelvic pain is definitely a multifaceted and complex issue. I am glad that you are finding relief in strengthening and stretching exercises. Definitely continue your good work with them! I would highly suggest looking into the low back as well (with your doctor or physiotherapist), as a lot of abdominal region pain is actually referred from the low back and can actually be easily resolved with some very specific exercises. If you live in the Ottawa region, feel free to give us a call and we can take a look. I hope this helps! =)

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