Treating Fascia to improve pain, woman with ball on forearm and yoga block

Understanding the Role of Fascia in Pain and How to Address it

Hey there! Have you ever heard of this amazing substance in our bodies called fascia?

It’s a type of connective tissue that surrounds and supports your muscles, bones, and organs. For many years modern medicine really didn’t understand its profound importance to our body. It used to be considered as a boring and passive tissue. Many surgeons just thought it was substance to cut through and ignore. Now we know it plays a critical role in our movement, posture, and overall health. Fascia is also chock-full of nerve fibers, which can be a pain in the you-know-what. In this post, we’re going to dive into how fascia can cause pain and what you can do to ease the discomfort. So lets go!

Fascial Integration

Fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds and supports muscles, bones, and organs in the body. But fascia is more than just a static tissue – it’s a dynamic system that integrates your whole body.

Fascia is continuous throughout the body, forming a complex network that connects all parts of the body together. This means that a restriction in one area of the body can affect other areas as well. For example, a restriction in the fascia of the hip can affect the mobility of the spine, leading to back pain.

Fascia also plays an important role in movement and posture. It helps transmit forces throughout the body, allowing us to move efficiently and maintain good posture. Restrictions in the fascia can affect this transmission of forces, leading to compensations and imbalances in the body.

Fascia also has a large amount of nerve fibers, which can contribute to pain. This means that restrictions in the fascia can not only affect movement and posture, but can also cause pain and dysfunctions in other body functions.

Fascia and Pain

Let’s talk about fascia and the nerve fibers that are present within it. Fascia, contains a dense network of nerve fibers that are responsible for transmitting signals to our brain. There are many different types of nerves such as nociceptors, proprioceptors, mechanoreceptors, thermoreceptors, and chemoreceptors (Gatt, 2022).

This means that when our fascia becomes tight, constricted, or damaged, these nerve fibers can be activated. This firing of these sensations receptors can lead to discomfort and pain in the affected areas.

It’s important to note that the pain caused by fascia can be tricky to diagnose, as fascial restriction do not generally show up on imaging such as in X-ray, CT or MRI scans. These restrictions are really unable to be assessed on any modality such as these.

If you suspect that your pain may be related to fascia, it’s always a good idea to seek professional help. A healthcare provider can help identify the source of your pain and recommend treatments that can help alleviate discomfort and prevent further damage.

How do you get fascial restrictions in the first place?

Now, there are many ways that fascial restrictions can occur. One of the most common is through injury, such as sprains and strains. If fascial gets overstreched or torn this can cause loss in the tensegrity of the body and the healing process can cause it to have loss of its natural glides and slides. You then can find restriction in the motion of your fascia.

Other common restrictions can come from surgery. The cutting of fascia can cause restriction again through the healing process and may need to have mobility exercises afterwards to regain its flexibility. Another common cause can be motor vehicle accidents (MVAs).

But it’s not just traumatic events that can cause fascial restrictions. Repetitive tasks, like typing on a computer or playing an instrument, can create tension in the fascia. Prolonged sitting, which is so common in our modern society, can also lead to fascial restrictions, as can poor posture.

How to Treat Fascial Restrictions

So, now that we know fascia can be a pain in the rear, but how can we address it? Luckily, there are several ways to help ease fascial restrictions and reduce pain.

Manual therapy techniques, like myofascial release and massage, are a popular way to address fascial restrictions. This type of therapy can help release tension and restore mobility to the fascia.

Being that I am an osteopathic physician, I feel the need to reference osteopathic manipulative medicine as effective for treating fascial restrictions. There are many different modalities for addressing this part of the body. Myofascial release, as mentioned above, can be performed by osteopathic physicians along with many other techniques for working with fascia.

Beyond osteopathic physicians though, there are a number of trained hands on practitioners that can work with fascial restrictions including; physical therapists, massage therapists, rolfers etc…

Otherwise, at home you can be working on exercise and stretching which can also help keep your fascia healthy and prevent restrictions from forming in the first place. Activities like yoga, Pilates, and foam rolling can all help maintain healthy fascia.

Self-care techniques, such as using massage balls or foam rollers at home, can also be helpful for addressing fascial restrictions. These tools allow you to target specific areas and apply pressure to release tension.

It’s important to address any underlying issues that may be contributing to fascial restrictions, such as poor posture, stress, or repetitive movements. By making changes to your daily habits and routines, you can help prevent fascial restrictions from forming.

By incorporating manual therapy, exercise and stretching, mindfulness practices and other self-care practices, you can maintain healthy fascia and prevent restrictions from forming.

Treating Fascia to improve pain, woman with ball on forearm and yoga block

In Conclusion…

Fascia is a dynamic system that integrates the whole body. It connects all parts of the body together, plays a role in movement and posture, and contains a high concentration of nerve fibers that can contribute to pain and discomfort. By addressing fascial restrictions and maintaining healthy fascia, we can help promote efficient movement, good posture, and overall health and wellbeing.

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