You know them. Five senses of sight, sound, scent, taste and touch. Now a sixth emerges – the sense of proprioception or knowing where your body is in space.
Like the eyes for sight or ears for hearing, the anatomic structure for proprioception is the fascia. In its’ capacity as a multidimensional body wide web, fascia functions as a rapid communication channel to send location coordinates and wellness biomarkers to the central nervous system from all parts of the body. It’s the GPS and thermometer for the brain.
Like 20/20 vision, the hallmark of healthy fascia is the ability to move with ease and grace. You know it when you see it. It looks bouncy and effortless and energetic.
It’s relatively easy to understand fascia as a wrapping that holds everything in place, but some of its’ other functions are not as well understood. Fascia is rich in sensory nerves that provide constant and rapid communication to a hungry, eager and demanding brain.
Basically, nerve fibers in fascia are transmitting three types of information to the brain. The first is Proprioceptive information about location of body parts in space. The second is pain (Nociception) – no further explanation needed. The third is Interoception, which transmits “internal” feelings from the body – nausea, warmth, soreness, feeling heavy or light or even recognizing parts of the body as belonging or alien. Interoceptive signals are often associated with strong emotional reactions.
Pain from fascial stress is termed myofascial pain – sometimes referred to as soft tissue injury. Myofascial pain syndromes are very real and can be chronic and hard to treat. Most instances of a “thing” with a shoulder, back or hip will be myofascial in origin and frequently start from poor postural habits causing stress in sensitive and fragile soft tissue structures.
Fascia tends to be all in or all out. Unresolved fascial pain in one area of the body can “open up the doors” to latent areas of stress elsewhere. Pain occurs in other areas of the body in seemingly unrelated episodes. A problem shoulder can morph into back pain or knee pain. Frequently we fight the same set of aches and pains as the body comes into balance and goes out again.
Sometimes myofascial pain is associated with trigger points – small palpable nodules within stretched taut bands of muscle. Active trigger points can be associated with localized or referred pain; latent trigger points may be dormant unless antagonized by direct pressure or through recruitment of unresolved active trigger points.
Likewise therapeutically manipulating fascia can calm thing down in a hurry. Tight, stressed and disorderly fascia results in postural imbalance sometimes limiting range of motion. Releasing fascia in one dimension to restore structural balance causes fascia to release in all dimensions.
Most receptors in fascia are polymodal meaning they tend to respond to Proprioceptive, Nociceptor and Interoceptive stimuli. This concept can be used to fight pain. The brain is so eager for information coming from the fascia that it will take anything but it likes Proprioception the best.
Called “Proprioception against Nociception”, activating proprioceptors (through mindful movement) dampen nociceptor activity and decrease pain coming from stressed fascia. Mindful full body movements like Pilates and yoga are examples of therapeutic modalities that reduce myofascial pain.
Proprioceptors signal the sensorimotor regions of the brain. Interoceptors go to a different part of the brain – the insular cortex that deals with emotion.
Proprioceptive impairment is associated with low back pain, scoliosis and myofascial pain syndromes. Conversely, Interoceptive dysregulation is associated with anxiety and depression, irritable bowel, alexithymia (emotional blindness), anorexia and fibromyalgia – disorders with a high emotional component.
Mindful movement keeps fascia healthy. Just do it.
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…
SDK Pilates is great! So far I’ve taken Pilates classes with Steph and Nancy, and I’m looking forward to Yoga with Mark. Currently working on core strengthening, shoulder mechanics, overall conditioning, and my golf game.
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’ 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.”
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!
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!
“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.”
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!
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.”