How to Relieve Menstrual Cramps – Partner Technique for Abdominal Fascia Release

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Women – have you ever planned something fun, like a date or a backpacking adventure, only to realize with horror after you step out your door that your period is here and all you want to do is go home, curl up on the couch and try not to die?

Men – how many of you are impacted by the horrible period cramps of the women in your life? (Please keep those eyeballs from rolling back in your head!)

This post isn’t just for women. If you men forward this to your female friends, or better yet learn to do the partner technique in the video, you just might become hero of the year 🙂

First, a disclaimer: there are a LOT of factors that can impact periods, including the existence of cramps. I do not claim to be a hormone specialist, doctor or period afficionado. I DO, however, know fascia; and we have a TON of it in our abdominal cavities. How healthy our abdominal fascia is can mean the difference between horrible period cramps and mild or non-existent ones. I’m speaking from personal experience as a woman, and having worked on friends. If you try this and it doesn’t work – chances are your cramps are not due to fascial restrictions.

What if we’re not doomed – by nature – to experience horrible cramps?

It’s my belief (through experience) that one major cause of horrific period cramps is restricted fascia within the abdominal cavity.

I don’t want to get crazy graphic here, because that’s not actually what this post is about, but basically during menstruation the female body is shedding the lining from the uterus. This blood has to travel through the lower abdominal cavity to and through the cervix.

Every organ and muscle requires innervation, including the female reproductive organs and the surrounding pelvic muscles. Innervation is critical for optimal function of organs and muscles, and this process can become inhibited or slow due to restricted fascia.

Proper space in our fascial system is what allows nerves to communicate properly and blood to flow (throughout the entire body, including the abdominal cavity).

Releasing this restricted fascia allows for better innervation of the organs and muscles that are responsible for menstruation, the blood starts flowing without impediment and cramps ease or are eliminated.

I’ve successfully used this technique with friends, and I’m sending my man this blog post so he can do this for me 🙂

How to get the most out of this technique:

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Abdominal Fascia Release – Try This if You Have Digestive Issues or Process Anxiety in Your Gut

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Do you have knots in your stomach? Do you process anxiety and stress in your gut, or have digestive issues?

The gut is a HUGE and very complicated topic. This post is meant to be a signal in the dark, a stopping point where you might glimpse a piece or two of your own unique “gut” puzzle; and I’ll give you a self-help abdominal release technique you can use to begin chipping away at the tension in your belly.

While this self-help work can be extremely beneficial, if possible I highly recommend that you find someone in your area who does Mayan Abdominal Massage. My entire abdominal region has never felt so light, free and spacious as it did after a massage with someone who specializes in this work.

Before I teach you today’s technique I have a question for you:

Are you listening to your gut?

I had horrible digestive issues for nearly 20 years that often meant I opted out of parties, excused myself from dates and hermitted at home even though I wanted to be around people because it was preferable to be alone than put a fake smile on my face and pretend I felt “normal” when I was really in a lot of pain.

The KEY (for me) to healing my gut wasn’t releasing the fascia in my abdomen.

I’m not going to tell my whole story or we’d be here all day, but essentially this boiled down to two things:

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How to RUN Without Knee Pain – Try This Experiment If Running Pain-Free is Your Goal

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First of all – I am NOT a running coach and this is NOT meant to be advice for how to be faster or a “better” runner; this is my opinion (based on personal experience with knee pain as well as my work with countless knee pain clients) on how to run without knee pain. That’s it.

If you love running and your goal is simply to enjoy running again without knee pain…this post is for YOU.

Running this way might make you slower (or faster), it might feel awkward or fantastic…I leave it entirely up to you to try this as an experiment – and then run this way or not.

Changing how I run (and taking care of my fascia in general) helped me run again after 8 YEARS of not being able to. Personally, I don’t care how fast I run as long as I’m out there bouncing on a trail again without knee pain!

One more quick disclaimer: this post is NOT meant to address knee pain in general. I’m specifically addressing knee pain that only seems to show up while you are running. If you get knee pain while running and it stops as soon as you stop running, then this post applies to you. If you have knee pain 24/7, there are likely other things going on and this post may not apply to you.

What causes knee pain while running?

While there are certainly many causes and types of knee pain, the vast majority of the time knee pain while running has a basic pattern.

Most of the time knee pain while running shows up on the lateral (out)side of the joint, and feels like a knife stabbing you under the kneecap. That sharp excruciating pain can bring you to the ground as the knee gives out.

A lot of people like to blame the IT Band. Understandable, given the IT Band’s size and the fact that it attaches laterally at the distal (far) end of the kneecap.

However, it has been my experience that the IT Band is 3rd in line as the cause, behind two other major players that contribute far more to both the cause and the reversal of this pattern.

Meaning…addressing these two other things often makes the IT Band issue obsolete. Not always, but very often.

The first major cause is fascial restriction (often in the form of huge knots the size of golf balls) in the lateral upper calf or gastrocnemius muscle.

The second major cause (both of these should be considered together), is the fascial restriction within the hamstrings, particularly the biceps femoris where the long and short head meet and where the long head meets the IT Band.

Often there are GRAPEFRUIT sized lumps of inflamed irritated fascia stuck between the IT Band and the hamstring. Please note that these adhesions are NOT within the IT Band OR hamstring muscles themselves, but rather…it is the fascia that wraps both muscle groups that is stuck BETWEEN these muscles (essentially the ITB and hamstring muscles are adhesed together via giant knots of dehydrated or inflamed fascia and all of that tissue is no longer able to GLIDE through movement).

(DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ROLL YOUR ITB TO SOLVE THIS ISSUE!)

It’s also a distinct possibility that your hamstrings are weak, if you sit at a desk all day and don’t intentionally work on strengthening that posterior chain.

All of this creates a powerful force that pulls the ITB and lateral knee ligaments even more laterally, which can cause the patella to slip off the bursa and create a bone on bone feeling (which I believe is that sharp knife-like pain in the knee).

What does this have to do with running?

Many runners use a short quick gait that emphasizes extensive use of the quads and quad hip flexors as well as the calves to create forward movement. This is especially true of trail runners, even more so distance trail runners. The other common stride I see (mostly in marathoners or road runners who run for time on mostly flat surfaces) is to have a long thrusting forward stride that uses extreme hip flexion followed by knee extension that happens in FRONT of them, causing a hard heel strike that forces the knee joints to stabilize their body through the entire run.

The first scenario I described above is certainly the most common, and if you are a barefoot runner or toe striker and your heel barely or doesn’t even touch the ground while running then you are especially likely to create fascial restrictions in your calves.

What all this does while running is put your hip and knee joints into a near-constant state of flexion, and all that overuse of the already restricted fascia within the upper lateral gastrocs combined with fascially restricted WEAK hamstrings (which probably aren’t tight from overuse but actually under-use, especially if you sit at a desk all day with bent knees and contracted/weak hamstrings and run with your quads and calves) means near constant tension on the lateral fascia of the knee joint, including all the tendons, ligaments and bursa.

The IT Band is supposed to stabilize us through sports like running, but its job becomes increasingly difficult with these fascial restrictions constantly pulling it off track (laterally and posterior), combined (possibly, if your foot strikes in front of you) with a gait that doesn’t allow for hip stabilization and instead relies on the knees for that, and to top it all off…so many people are now foam rolling the bejeezus out of their IT Bands in an attempt to change all of this, but the IT Band actually NEEDS to be extremely tight from hip to knee since it is made up mostly of dense fascia (it’s basically a giant tendon) whose job it is TO STAY TIGHT AND KEEP US STABLE. While the fascial adhesions between the ITB and hamstring DO need releasing (strategically), I’m not a fan WHATSOEVER of rolling out the IT Band from knee to hip.

Take a closer look at the knee joint and surrounding muscles.

Now imagine someone tugging on the lateral upper calf tissue while also tugging at the hamstring and ITB tendons that attach to the knee and patellar tendon (the “balls” or knots of fascia are doing the “tugging”); these two things pull everything laterally and posterior, possibly taking the patella with it, creating a nice set-up for bone on bone action unless released from this pattern.

What reverses all of the above as far as running is concerned is reversing the muscle patterns that lead to these restrictions while running, and changing where our foot strikes the ground.

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Relieve Heel Pain and Recover from Rolled Ankles – Inner Calf Release

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This area of the body warrants a close look at the anatomy, while the technique itself is very simple.

This one small area, when fascially restricted, can wreak havoc on the entire foot, ankle, heel, plantar fascia and quite possibly a lot of things upstream as well, such as knees, the groin, the SI area and possibly even your neck and head (headaches CAN sometimes be related to this line of fascia being too tight/restricted).

We’re not going to look at the entire body or ALL the ways this one area can impact the body.

Today I want to focus on 3 main things: plantar fasciitis and/or heel pain that is showing up directly in line with the flexor digitorum longus and tibialis posterior tendons, and how this area plays a part in rolling ankles.

You’ll need a lacrosse ball for this one. I do NOT recommend using any other ball, nor do I recommend a theracane (I’ve seen some people use this). The first is too big, and the second too pointed and you’ll likely bruise (something I’m always trying to avoid).

This one small area packs a punch, fascially speaking:

There’s a lot going on in this one small area: the medial head of the gastrocnemius along with the soleus (meidal) and their fascia can get stuck to each other and to the flexor digitorum longus fascia. The flexor digitorum longus, when over-tight (or stuck to other muscles via their connecting fascia), can over-invert the foot, making the ankle susceptible to being rolled.

Also potentially leading to over-inversion of the foot is tibialis posterior, and via its tendon can contribute to ankle pain or heel pain between the ankle and calcaneus.

While we won’t necessarily be getting it directly, this technique can help free up the tibialis posterior, particularly the posterior tibialis TENDON which has a big impact on heel and ankle health.

If you have flat feet, fallen arches or your foot drops (arch collapses) while walking, this is one area to look at (it may not be the culprit) along with everything in the lateral line – ankle and foot fascia, tibialis anterior, perroneals, IT Band fascia etc.

The relationship these two (the medial and lateral lines of fascia) have with one another can determine SO much of what happens in our bodies, because everything in the foot and ankle determines our stride and what happens upstream. If your ankle doesn’t articulate well or creates an unhealthy gait pattern, that pattern transfers up to the knees, hips and shoulders.

As usual around here, I’m less concerned with naming all the muscles involved than talking about the restricted fascia between and around all these muscles.

Fascia also wraps our bones, and I believe this is one area of the body where the fascia of these muscles is particularly clogged or stuck to the bone (in this case the tibia).

The technique I demonstrate in the video isn’t nearly as effective as the in person version that I use on clients, but it’s an acceptable self-help solution (or I wouldn’t be giving it to you).

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Triceps Fascial Release – Free Your Arms & Relieve Elbow & Rotator Cuff Pain

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The triceps – or more accurately, the fascia within and around the tricpeps – typically don’t play the main role in any pain patterns; however they can play a significant minor role in rotator cuff issues, elbow pain (both golfer’s and tennis elbow) and sometimes neck and wrist issues.

The role triceps play in upper body pain:

The diagram on the right shows the Anatomy Trains posterior fascial line that includes the triceps. As you can see, the muscle (and thus the fascia in that muscle) does connect to both the shoulder joint and the rotator cuff, as well as the wrist and neck.

The reason I say the triceps play only a minor role in all the issues I’m going to talk about is because it would be pretty uncommon for anyone in today’s world to overuse their triceps (and I don’t see many clients with triceps fascia that plays a big role); conversely, it’s all too common for us to overuse our BICEPS (the muscle that could be inhibiting your triceps), and I see the biceps fascia playing a HUGE role in all kinds of issues.

So if you have shoulder, rotator cuff, elbow, wrist or neck issues and you haven’t FIRST ruled out the biceps…do that. Click here for my bicep release technique and blog post.

Reasons to release your triceps fascia:

  • You certainly don’t have to be in pain to benefit – I use this one and my arm feels instantly lighter, freer, like it’s floating! Just because you’re not in pain doesn’t mean you can’t feel EVEN BETTER 🙂
  • You have rotator cuff pain/issues or pain behind your shoulder (or IN the posterior shoulder)
  • You have elbow pain (tennis and/or golfer’s elbow)
  • You have pain anywhere in the arm (sometimes it shows up as a line of pain through the biceps, elbow and into the forearm) that happens when your arm is outstretched laterally and you rotate internally
  • You have neck pain, especially pain near the cervical spine up to the occiput (skull)
  • You have pinky side wrist issues

How to get the most out of this technique:

  • Be willing to hunt around for the best spot – it will be a knot or lump, and in MOST people it’s higher up, but go ahead and check EVERYTHING from just above the elbow to just below the shoulder
  • Once you find the spot, do NOT just roll your arm over the barbell in a massage-like manner; instead, focus on PINNING the adhesed piece of fascia to the barbell and use your arm movements to release it while doing your best to keep your humerus (bone) directly on the barbell
  • If you do this right, you don’t need more than 10 back and forths, or approximately 20-30 seconds of pinning and releasing
  • Look for 2 good spots, but DO rule out a third by trying another spot either below or above the other two (sometimes you might miss the BEST one, and if you do you’ll miss the best result)
  • All in all, once you have this down, you’ll only need to spend a MAXIMUM of 3 minutes at the barbell pinning, releasing, taking a quick break and repeating 1-2 more times
  • If you feel ANYTHING that resembles nerve pain COME OFF IMMEDIATELY. Nerve pain is sharp and shooting or electrical and you never want to stay on a nervy area

 

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The Safest and Best Way to Warm up Before a Workout

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Are you still going into the gym and straight to your stretching mat with cold muscles to “warm up” before a workout? I hope not!

I have a special guest for today’s episode: Jason McQueen of McFit Personal Training. Jason has 17 years of experience in the fitness, strength and conditioning world. He is my personal trainer 2 times per week and one of my four original apprentices learning the work fascial integration work I’ve developed (and he’s almost done with his training!)

Jason is here to show us the safest and best way to warm up before a workout:

DYNAMIC STRETCHING

You’ve heard me say a hundred times by now that I’m not a fan of static stretching at all, and this is especially true if you’re going into a workout cold and looking to ‘stretch’ before you get after it.

There may be a lot of people who will disagree with me on this, but personally I’d rather we not stretch at all before something like a trail run and use the first minute or two to run slow and easy as our “warm-up” than go through a 10 minute static stretch routine with cold muscles. So if you’re pressed for time and you just want to run, go for it. Just don’t sprint straight out the door and expect your body to automatically become fluid and “warm” right away; ease into your fast pace and your body will thank you.

If you ARE looking for a better way to warm up and you have a few minutes to spare before your workouts, dynamic stretching is my absolute favorite way to do so.

What this means is we are moving our bodies dynamically rather than statically; we’re MOVING through stretches without holding them for more than a few seconds. This takes our muscles and fascia through flexion and extension in easy, natural ranges of motion, starts to pump blood and lymph through our system and actually does “warm” our bodies up in a gentle, gradual way.

There are a TON of dynamic stretches out there. Today we are covering a BASIC and simple routine that you can use before any workout, whether in the gym or outside on the trail or a soccer field.

You may want a sport specific routine if you’re a serious athlete, or perhaps you want a FULL dynamic stretching routine. We’ll be showing you sport specific dynamic warm-ups in coming episodes and we’ll definitely get you access to a full routine soon.

If you want to UP your warm-up game to top notch:

If you have 15-30 minutes before a workout and you want to dedicate this time to injury recovery and/or prevention and give your body the BEST chance of performing well, use some of your favorite dynamic stretching techniques, add in a few PNF stretches (click here for my how-to video for PNF stretching) and then use your foam roller, lacrosse ball and other mobility tools to target key areas of your fascia to optimize your soft tissue’s health.

Give this a try and boost the quality of your workouts!

 

If you liked this post please “like” and share it!

Subscribe here and on YouTube for new posts every Monday.

For personalized help with head to toe pain issues, click here to schedule a private Skype consultation with Elisha Celeste. SUBSCRIBE below and get $15 off your first session.

PNF Stretching – Bigger Flexibility Gains Without the Dangers of Static Stretching

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What’s the best way to stretch?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions I get, and the answer is finally here!

If you want to increase flexibility, stay limber, mobile and healthy then “stretching” is a favorite the world over for all of these, but…exactly HOW should you be stretching?

If you’ve been hanging out with me here at Mobility Mastery for any length of time then you’re probably aware that I’m not a fan of static stretching (going into a linear stretch and holding it for an extended period of time). In fact I adamantly oppose it for most people most of the time. This is because taking “cold” muscles into intense stretches and forcing all your tissues to stay lengthened greatly increases the chances those same tissues will resist being pulled on, which means risking micro tears, stretch reflexes and generally doing more harm than good.

The potential benefits of static stretching simply aren’t worth the risks (in my opinion). Besides…there are FAR BETTER ways to stretch that not only yield better results for increasing flexibility and range of motion but have nearly zero potential for harm if performed correctly.

So what’s the BEST method of stretching?

My personal favorite way to stretch is called PNF stretching. PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.

In the above video I talk about the basic principles behind PNF and show you a simple PNF stretching routine for 4 basic muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, calves and chest. Instructions for specific stretches starts at 2:37.

But first…

Before you stretch, know your WHY:

Why do you want to stretch? Is it for sport specific reasons like being a gymnast or dancer?

Are you trying to stretch your way out of pain?

Do you simply want to maintain healthy muscles and range of motion?

All of the above?

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Master Mobility by Learning the Distinctions Between Flexibility, Inflexibility and Fascial Restrictions Part 3 – Flexibility or Mobility Issue?

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This is Part 3 in a 3-Part series. Click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2.

When is “inflexibility” a fascial restriction or mobility issue, and when is it true inflexibility?

That’s the topic of Part 3, the last in this series.

Fascial restriction can APPEAR to impact flexibility, and this is a really important distinction to understand because if we try to target what seems inflexible rather than going after the cause of immobility, we could injure ourselves or make things a lot worse.

I will not be covering every possible example of this or we’d be here all day, but I do want to give you the ones I see the most in my private practice.

Got tight hamstrings? Are you SURE?

The most common example of this is when the hamstrings appear tight or inflexible when what is really going on is a low back pain pattern (even if you don’t have low back pain).

If you’re in a fascial restriction pattern that is endangering your spine, your brain will step in to PROTECT you by limiting your range of motion.

In the case of low back pain patterns it is my opinion that the brain recruits the GLUTES and hamstrings to tighten up neurologically to keep you from injuring your spine.

The real CAUSE of distress in the low back is going to be somewhere in the quads and quad hip flexors, the IT Bands or adductors.

Most often it is actually the glutes that are the “tightest” (neurologically speaking, NOT from overuse) and if the glutes are in lock down there’s no way you’re going to be able to reach down and touch your toes. (Your body is PROTECTING you). But the problem is NOT hamstring inflexibility. I see a LOT of people attempting to stretch their hamstrings in an attempt to relieve low back pain and posterior chain tightness and I always cringe!

And…some people just have inflexible hamstrings, plain and simple.

The key to mastering your mobility is to learn how to know the difference.

Other examples:

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Master Mobility by Learning the Distinctions Between Flexibility, Inflexibility and Fascial Restriction Issues; Part 2: When to Increase Flexibility & When to Release Fascia

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This is Part II in a three part series. Click here for Part I.

Know YOUR goals:

If you’re trying to increase flexibility then I highly recommend you first get crystal clear on WHY you want this.

If you’re in pain and you think increasing your flexibility will get you OUT of pain, I’m here to tell you that the OPPOSITE is a far more likely and a safer approach: get yourself OUT of pain and you will probably (and quite quickly) recover the flexibility you lost when your nervous system detected danger and went about protecting you from further injury by restricting your mobility.

If you’re TRULY inflexible and you are NOT in pain, then by all means work on increasing flexibility – safely, in ways that don’t stress your tissues or put you in danger of injury (NOT static stretching).

If you’re not in pain and you’re a dancer, gymnast, runner, yogi etc…then you will be forced to do some static stretching, and I recommend you go about this in such a way that you don’t injure your soft tissue or joints.

If you are in pain AND you want to increase flexibility, then I highly recommend getting yourself out of pain FIRST. You’ll have a better baseline of what your actual flexibility level is like, and you won’t be running the risk of injury or increased pain by endangering your body with stretching that could cause more harm than good.

Know you’re why and you’ll begin forming an alliance with your body that will allow you to reach your goals safely, and far faster.

When to use fascial release:

  • If you’re in pain – anything from plantar fasciitis (all the itises) to knee pain, hip pain, back pain, shoulder issues, carpal tunnel pain, repetitive motion injuries, “pulled” or sprained muscles or ligaments etc
  • If you have restricted range of motion in one or more joints (hips, shoulders, knees, ankles, wrists) and you’re otherwise “flexible” enough to perform everyday tasks without issue (it’s likely a fascial restriction issue but this COULD be a true need for more flexibility – part 3 in this series is all about the overlap and how to know the differences)
  • Injury PREVENTION
  • If you want more SPRING in your system (and we should ALL want more spring!)
  • If you’re an athlete looking for an “edge” (optimize your fascia and you gain up to 10x better proprioception, not to mention you’ll be far less injury prone and you’ll recover faster)
  • If you want to feel lighter, more spacious and give your muscle fibers the freedom to move fluidly, no matter your age, activity level and even if you’re not in pain

When to increase flexibility:

  • You’re NOT in pain
  • You do a sport that requires more flexibility than the average person needs, such as gymnastics, yoga, dancing, ballet, CrossFit etc
  • You’ve ruled out fascial restriction issues and pain patterns that lead to lack of mobility as a reason for your inflexibility and you want to increase your natural bendyness
  • ……
  • yep, that’s all I got! Short list.

PARENTS AND COACHES OF CHILD ATHLETES:

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Master Mobility by Learning the Distinctions Between Flexibility, Inflexibility and Fascial Restriction Issues; Part 1 of 3

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“Will I be able to do the splits after you work on me?”

I’ve been asked this quite a few times when new clients walk into my office. My rise to fame would be meteoric if I could perform such a feat! The answer is NO, it doesn’t work that way.

Just because you are so flexible you can wrap yourself into a pretzel does NOT mean your fascia is healthy. Conversely, just because your fascia is healthy (maybe you’ve become a fascial release ninja?!) does NOT necessarily mean you will achieve an increase in flexibility. Though it might…

There is definitely some overlap and if you’re going to win the game of mastering your mobility, then it’s critical to understand the distinctions.

I’m going to do my best to break this down and make the info WORK for you and your goals.

This is PART ONE of a THREE PART series.

What does it mean to be flexible?

We all need to be flexible to a certain degree to perform everyday tasks: bending over to pick children or groceries up; being able to sit, walk and move with ease.

Take flexibility a step further and you might think of the people next to you in yoga who can go all the way into pigeon pose without screaming (definitely not me), or sit comfortably in a deep squat with perfect form and no knee pain (me!)

Take it to an even greater extreme and we’re talking about those people are so bendy it doesn’t even seem “right.” These are usually gymnasts, dancers, performers or dedicated yogis who have taken their practice to a totally different level: the human pretzel! (Yikes).

What does it mean to have healthy fascia?

Healthy fascia is SPACIOUS and fluid, well lubricated and springy, strong AND elastic (SUPPLE). Spacious is the KEY word.

When your fascia is in an optimal state it won’t hurt AT ALL when weight or compression is applied. That means you could have a sumo wrestler standing with his full weight on your IT Band and it wouldn’t hurt a bit! True story. (Actually I haven’t tested that one yet, but I should! Ha. That picture to the right is me devilishly excited to work on my apprentice’s IT Band, AND it demonstrates my hyper-mobile elbow and shoulder joints).

If your entire fascial system is healthy, it will act as one unit like a highly adaptive SPRING (click here for a specific post on this), allowing us to sprint, jump and fall with minimal impact on our bones.

We have as our birthright the ability to play and move as we want because our fascial system is designed to absorb impact AND allow us to spring out of jumps and steps with fluid elasticity.

Most of us, however, have unhealthy fascia to varying degrees and don’t even know how GOOD we can feel because fascia is only JUST beginning to make a name for itself within the fitness, medical and alternative wellness worlds. Getting our fascia healthy should NOT be limited (in my opinion) just to those of us in pain! Kind of like eating well and being active, the healthier our fascia the better we will feel in our bodies on a daily basis and PREVENT all kinds of soft tissue and joint pain as we age.

Distinctions between Flexibility, Hyper-mobility and Inflexibility:

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