What happened to that childhood ability to bounce through life jumping, running and turning cartwheels with abandon? New science is shedding some light on the anatomic culprit – blame the fascia. Largely responsible for the bounce in the step, fascia stiffens and looses its’ elasticity as we age. But there are ways to fight it.
Fascia is a matrix that runs throughout the entire body that can shift in structure from a fine spider web like density to a thick leather-like structure with varying degrees of fluidity from liquid to gel. It flows within, through and around all components of the body in a continuous fashion although the nature of the substance varies widely depending on purpose.
What does fascia do?
Supports and shapes. Fascia holds everything together. In some parts of the body, the fascia is thickened for more postural support such as in the low back. Rich in pain receptors and responsive to chemical signals of emotional stress, lumbar fascia may be responsible for some cases of intractable or chronic low back pain.
Communicates position. Through a sophisticated system of mechanoreceptors, fascia is responsible for proprioception or the ability of your brain to know where your body is in space. Receptors detect muscular contraction, stretch, pressure, and vibration in order to tell the brain what the body is doing – fascia is responsible for our ability to move without consciously thinking about it.
Participates in movement. Fascia can contract in its’ own right and is believed to be responsible for heroic feats of strength under duress. More importantly, the force of muscular contraction to the skeleton is transmitted through fascial soft tissue structures. If postural integrity is lost – for instance we become stooped and rounded in our shoulders – the resulting abnormal movement patterns injure delicate soft tissue structures (fascia) and cause impingement syndromes.
Provides nutrients. The matrix of the fascia provides a highway for the lymph, blood vessels and nerves to traverse. Specialized forms of fascia – synovial fluid – bathe joints providing nutrients and hydration. Synovial fluid is stimulated by joint activity so move it or lose it.
How do we keep fascia healthy?
Caring for your fascia is like a fountain of youth for how you look, feel and move. Soft tissue (fascial) injuries are common as we age and can be difficult to treat in isolation – the nagging shoulder, cranky knee, irritable back. Many are due to postural imbalances that require a holistic approach.
The approach to training and treating fascia includes movement modalities and manual therapies. Proven movement modalities are yoga and Pilates. Manual therapies include massage, acupuncture and foam roller bodywork.
Four tenets are important to consider in designing a personal program.
Train in multiple planes. Fascia that supports the musculoskeletal system is oriented in myofascial meridians. For instance there are four meridians in the arms and shoulders – deep and superficial, front and back lines. Understanding the anatomy of the meridians helps to design an effective program but when in doubt include movement in multiple planes – side bending, forward folds, extension and rotation.
Lengthen, strengthen and balance fascial elements. Slow, fluid movements are required to work with these structures as ballistic movements can result in tears and ruptures. Fascia can remodel in response to repetitive movements or chronic holding patterns. If we are constantly hunched over a computer or steering wheel, fascia in the shoulders becomes tight and restricts movement. Unilateral activities and deleterious activities in daily living need to be balanced.
Hydrate through movement. Drinking water alone will not get the job done. Hydration of soft tissue structures requires compressive movement to move water and other nutrients to the proper place. In other words, resistance training. As muscles contract and internal organs respond to the workload, water is squeezed out and then reabsorbed with fresh nutrients.
Restore elasticity. Rhythmic bouncing movements are best – running, kayaking, jump board pilates – but gage the level of activity to the tolerance of soft tissue structures for injury.
Use a Holistic Approach
Fascia responds to movement modalities and manual therapies. Yoga and Pilates are excellent movement modalities to lengthen, strengthen and balance fascia. Massage and manual therapies (osteopathy, foam rollers) help to free stuck fascia and improve plasticity. Acupuncture meridians mirror myofascial meridians and may explain the effectiveness of acupuncture in pain relief of soft tissue structures.
Give your fascia some love. Feel better. Look better. Move better.
Pilates has been a wonderful experience both physically and mentally – it relieves stress and gets your body in a “can do” spirit to stretch and feel good. The instructors are the best and the people I’ve met in class are fun to be with. Friendships develop. I will do this forever!
I love the classes and instructors at SDK Pilates! Stephanie, the owner, has been a tremendous help to me with understanding challenges I face with a bad hip. Her expertise and medical background have helped me select exercises that are appropriate for me and I have learned there are still plenty of things that I can do to strengthen my body! At other places, I sometimes overdid my workouts (and hurt myself) – SDK’s instructors have helped me increase my flexibility and strengthen my body in a s…
“Sandi and Elaine have the ability to deliver a class that meets the needs of all attendees in the class, even when there is different levels of experience.They have a great manner of presenting poses and ensure good form for a safe and enjoyable Yoga class.”
“SDK Pilates’ yoga instructors are beyond wonderful and very reliable. Our community and hospital staff truly enjoy the classes and we are extremely thankful for their partnership with us.”
Stephanie’s class is well-paced, challenging yet welcoming for first timers and those who are more experienced. She offers seamless coaching throughout and her enthusiasm and energy is inspirational.
“Sandi and Elaine have the ability to deliver a class that meets the needs of all attendees in the class, even when there is different levels of experience. They have a great manner of presenting poses and ensure good form for a safe and enjoyable Yoga class.”
I have been a client of Stephanie’s for several years. What I think makes her stand out from other studios is that she was a doctor & understands each individual clients bodies. The new studio is airy spacious & calming
My experience with SDK Pilates has been outstanding. All of the instructors have been knowledgeable and welcoming. All levels of fitness and capabilities are embraced, addressed and challenged. Individual needs are seamlessly met with in the class. Every class is different and I always walk out feeling better than when I walked in. I take Pilates twice a week and wish I could take it every day!
I have taken yoga and Pilates classes from Stephanie for many years, and I can say that she is terrific. Her background in physical medicine and rehab makes her uniquely qualified to instruct and coach with a focus in balanced strengthening, proper alignment, and prevention of injury. I enjoy the low key environment at the studio, and have made many friends in her classes.
SDK Pilates is wonderful! I have been taking classes from Stephanie for a number of years and thoroughly enjoy both her Pilates and therapeutic yoga sessions. Her training as a doctor enables her to work around physical limitations and injuries and strengthen weaknesses. She has helped me immensely with chronic shoulder issues. The fun nature of the classes, the camaraderie of the attendees and the great workout make SDK classes my favorite way to exercise!