Tuesday 4 July 2017

Fascia: Not Your Enemy

Fascia spent many decades with status as the "forgotten system". Indeed, we got very used to only ever thinking of the body as a neatly-compartmentalized container of separated organs. Fast forward, though, and the past few years have seen fascia blow up as hot topic among medical and fitness professionals, bringing to light how these system keeps the body so closely interconnected and supported.

However, with awareness of fascia came this strange demonizing of it. Fascial pain, myofascial release, foam rolling, trigger point release, and more. I hear so many people attempting to boil down all their pain and dysfunction to fascia and trying to roll it out and stretch it cellophane-thin in order to address it.

But let's try to remember that, like all other systems of the body, the symptoms of fascia are a product of your lifestyle and habits and that all of your systems are being affected together. It's irresponsible to try and narrow down all of your problems to just the one type of tissue; if there's pain or dysfunction in it, it's absolutely being caused by overall mechanical issues being contributed to by multiple other structures.

For instance, I had one client who had confusing knee pain symptoms that kept bouncing around to different areas around the knee and occurred bilaterally. When the pain was clearly not purely muscolotendinous, I considered it to be fascial. To test this theory, we went up the chain to the neck and treated the muscles that were fascially connected to the painful areas of the knee (the superficial front line pictured below) and then reapplied stress to the knee. What do you know, the pain had alleviated!

The superficial front line

Does this signify the fascial involvement in my client's pain? Yes. Does this mean that all we have to do is treat his fascia? Definitely not. We still have to consider the muscular restrictions that may be causing secondary fascial tension. We need to address the reasons why that anterior chain is experiencing shortening and tension in the first place to allow the fascia to adhese in the way it is. Whether myofascial involvement is the primary, secondary, or tertiary issue, you have to touch on it all.

In short, we need to stop treating the topic of fascia like it's the enemy that's causing all of our problems or that treating it is the end-all-be-all solution. Healthcare and fitness professionals alike know that we need to treat the body as a whole, but sometimes even we need a good reminder to not become hyperfocused on one aspect.

Fascia, it's not an enemy. It's a victim.

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