You might attribute a painful neck or a backache to sleeping in the wrong position or working too hard. Maybe you chalk it up to tired muscles or stiff joints. But your symptoms may be caused by a part of your body you probably haven’t heard of: the fascia. This network of tissue expands throughout the body but has received very little attention despite its major role in every move you make.
So what is fascia?
Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place.
Fascia does more than provide internal structure; fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin. When stressed, it tightens itself around every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle.
No wonder we hurt and no wonder that pain intensifies and stays with us for the long-haul. As a matter of fact, the human body contains more than 650 different muscles. Every one of them is engulfed in fascia. So when we get a massage, the therapist is focused on the muscles. The fascia is moved along with the muscle, but chronic pain does not dissipate. Why? Because fascia is treated differently than muscle. The movement, or displacement, of fascia is vastly different than massaging a muscle.
“Although fascia looks like one sheet of tissue, it’s actually made up of multiple layers with liquid in between called hyaluronan,” says Harpreet Gujral, D.N.P., program director of integrative medicine at Sibley Memorial Hospital. “It’s designed to stretch as you move. But there are certain things that cause fascia to thicken and become sticky. When it dries up and tightens around muscles, it can limit mobility and cause painful knots to develop.”¹
But why would fascia dry and tighten? Let’s take a look…
Why Does Fascia Dry and Tighten?
Healthy fascia is smooth, flexible and slippery. But fascia can become adhesive … think about the white glue used in elementary school. It is smooth and slippery. But after it stays open for a while, it becomes gummy, sticky and then dries hard. This is similar to fascia; it can become adhesive (gummy and crinkled) when we experience²:
- limited physical activity (too little movement day after day)
- repetitive movement that overworks one part of the body
- trauma such as surgery or an injury
Is Your Pain Fascia Pain?
Determining whether your pain is due to muscles, joints or fascia is something that can only happen in an in-office setting. But as a general rule of thumb, muscle injuries and joint problems feel worse the more you move. Fascia adhesions normally feel better with movement and have a tendency to respond well to heat therapy, which helps bring back the tissue’s elasticity.
For some people, adhesions (crinkled and dried-up fascia) can worsen over time, causing the fascia to compress and contort the muscles it surrounds. This can result in hard, tender knots in the muscles, called trigger points. Myofascial pain syndrome (diagnosed by a medical doctor) is a condition in which those trigger points cause pain to occur:
- during movement
- with applied pressure
- in seemingly unrelated parts of the body (referred pain)
Treatment of adhesions and fascia tightness includes the application of one or more systemized methods of fascia manipulation. Commonly referred to as “bodywork” it is the Pain Management Massage in which Cathy is knowledgeable and experienced.
Want to experience a Pain Management Massage so you can focus on relieving your pain? It’s certainly not like any massage you’ve experienced before.
Give me a call to schedule at (225) 784 – 2168.
In His Grace,
1. Harpreet Gujral, DNP, FNP-BC – Program Director and Nurse Practitioner
2. Understanding Your Fascia