How Diet Affects Fascia: 3 Best “Foods” for Healthy Connective Tissue

Recently I’ve been challenged to see myself in a new light; to recognize a pervasive pattern of mine that at one time in my life kept me feeling safe, but is no longer necessary and in fact had became downright destructive to my relationship. I was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy (getting exactly what I didn’t want by letting my fears control my actions).

Gaining this new insight into my own behavior has helped me see, with even more clarity, how we often act on survival instincts and do things that may at first glance seem healthy or even ethically or objectively “right,” but are in fact keeping us stuck in unhealthy nervous system patterns.

This is just as true for the relationships we have with other human beings as it is for us and our bodies, and fascia (which feels everything, records everything, connects everything and in a lot of ways manages our abilities based on our emotions, beliefs, nervous system patterns, past injury patterns and current strengths and weaknesses).

Why do you eat what you eat?

If you’re reading this then I’m assuming you’re concerned (or interested in learning) about what types of foods you “should” be eating for optimal health (including fascial health). If so, then my very first question is “why?”

Your why is far more important than what you’re eating.

Why do you want to know?

Is your curiosity coming from a place of self love and wanting to honor your body?

Is your concern born of fear? Maybe you’re afraid of getting “fat” or getting cancer, or maybe you’re afraid of the pleasure you get eating that coffee ice cream (mmmmm) or that burger and fries; or maybe you don’t want to end up like a parent, friend or other loved one who has diabetes or heart disease or is always getting injured.

While our fears are totally valid and I believe they need to be heard and honored, acting from a place of fear will likely only produce a self-fulfilling prophecy – giving us exactly what we don’t want.

So what should we be doing instead?

First of all – I believe fear starts to fade in the face of facts, or looking at a situation with as much honest objectivity as possible. Simply acknowledging what is, without making it (or ourselves) right or wrong, goes a long way towards calming the nervous system (at least it does mine – you may be different).

When it comes to nutrition or diet and fascia, the facts may surprise you.

Does diet affect fascia?

Yes.

And no.

I have clients who are totally dedicated to “healthy” eating (organic, paleo, gluten free, anti-inflammatory, probiotic etc), and I have clients who binge after jiu-jitsu tournaments on burgers, fries, candy and beer; and everything in-between (people who don’t watch their diet at all, and those who brew their own kombucha and make their own sprouts).

After all these years, there are definitely some patterns that have arisen around diet and how healthy (or not) a client’s fascia is:

Typically, the ones who obsess about eating healthy are also obsessing (and stressing) about other areas of their life as well; including how much or in what ways they exercise, whether or not they’re doing all the “right” things by their body; and it is these people who have the most consistently tight fascia that doesn’t want to let go; they get injured more frequently than my other clients and consequently they want to know what else they can “do” to prevent pain, injury, unhealthy fascia etc.

Meanwhile, the clients I have that either a) don’t stress at all about what they eat (and they probably eat “unhealthy” to varying degrees) or b) do the best they can and let go of any particular outcome, have the healthiest fascia, get injured the least and seem pretty content with their bodies and lives.

Does diet matter at all then?

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The Truth About Fascia – It Doesn’t Just ‘Wrap’ Muscles & It Might Just be the Fountain of Youth!

So you’ve heard a bit about fascia by now..but do you really know what it is and how it functions in your body?

Fascia (otherwise known as connective tissue) has become quite the buzzword. Which is awesome!

When I started working with fascia in 2008 very few of my new clients knew what it was. Now fascia is a huge topic getting a lot of attention and all of my clients have at least heard of it. Many of the articles I read are spot on. And, a lot of them are – in my opinion – missing what I consider to be the most important details about this critical tissue.

If you’ve been wondering what all the fuss is about, this post is for you!

What is fascia?

In its simplest definition, fascia is a collagen-like substance that separates and connects almost everything in the human body.

Most people are familiar with the kind of fascia found in a steak or chicken breast, because this is similar to the fascia that wraps our muscles – and this is still what most people think of when they hear the word fascia.

But what most people do NOT know is just how much fascia we have, how critical it is for our entire well being and that it’s found in the tiniest of places down to the cellular level.

We have more fascia than anything else, certainly more than muscles and bones!

Fascia wraps every single nerve ending and nerve, every fibril of muscle tissue as well as the fiber (which is made up of multiple fibrils); it wraps every muscle bundle and muscle group and then turns into tendon and ligament (also fascia), which connects to our bones, also wrapped in fascia. It wraps our organs too.

When we observe fascia at the microscopic level and THEN zoom out, things get really interesting. This is about to get sciency, so hang with me.

Why is fascia so critical?

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I think we can all agree that nerves – and the nervous system – are critical for us to function optimally every moment we’re alive, right?

Well…

Every nerve in the body is a cordlike structure containing bundles of axons. Within a nerve each axon is surrounded by a layer of connective tissue (fascia) called the endoneurium. The axons are bundled together into groups called fascicles, and each fascicle is wrapped in a layer of connective tissue called the perineurium. Then, the entire nerve is wrapped in a layer of connective tissue called the epineurium.

Fascia wraps each part of a nerve and every nerve in its entirety, and we have a hundred billion of them!

The implications of this fact alone are enormous, and largely unstudied or talked about.

The nervous system is the master regulator of everything that happens to and within us in our lifetimes. Every thought we think produces a feeling, and every single feeling is FELT in the body as sensation, via the nervous system.

I’m convinced the fascia feels everything that our nerves do – perhaps on an even more intense or widespread level.

Take fear for example: whenever we feel fear we tend to experience it as anxiety or adrenaline, tension or stress. When we feel joy it’s often described as light, expansive, buoyant. Our feelings and actions every day direct the hormone cocktail released by the brain to regulate whatever state(s) we’re in.

Literally everything that happens to us in life – good and bad – is felt and recorded within the fascial structure or system.

I also have it on good authority (from an orthopedic surgeon) that fascia bleeds a LOT more than muscle when cut into. Fascia contains more of our blood supply than anything else. This fact alone also gives fascia an incredibly important role – by being the main source of fresh blood within the body.

Healthy fascia gives us “spring” (aka, it’s our shock absorption!)

All connective tissue has within it something called ground substance, one of the most important elements in the human body.

Ground substance is an amorphous gel like substance that surrounds every cell; it contains the nutrients that FEED every cell in our body, AND it takes the waste excreted by every cell and ushers it out of our body.

So basically – fascia is our nutrient AND waste distributor!

That’s not all though…

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Athletes – Increase Your Efficiency & Power Potential as a Mover by Up to 10x

What if I told you that you have as your birthright the ability as a mover and athlete to feel weightless, springy, even buoyant? What if I also told you that the same way you access this birthright allows you to need less or no warm-up time before activities, helps you recover faster and rarely get sore? And, what if I told you that this same system, when optimized, could dramatically increase your efficiency and power potential as an athlete (meaning, if you’re a competitive athlete you may just decrease times and increase speed/agility/ability)?

All of the above is absolutely available to you.

Healthy fascia grants us this birthright.

If you want to access all of the above, listen up:

We have 10 times as many proprioceptors in our fascia than we do muscle fiber.

Proprioception is the brain’s ability to detect our physical body in space, and then conduct our movements within that space.

If you’re an athlete it’s critical to know your way around whatever space you perform in right? If you’re a gymnast that means you need to know your way around the balance beam, uneven bars or how to throw yourself across the floor. If you’re a trail runner you need to have keen awareness of your terrain, ideally without that awareness interrupting your ability to run quickly. If you’re an MMA fighter you need to not only be able to control your body in physical space, but be able to predict and control someone else’s too!

All of these things require healthy proprioception.

Have you ever tried to perform a movement only to feel like you have a “dumb” arm or leg? Maybe it’s easier on one side than the other. This has a lot do with proprioception!

Let’s get nerdy for a moment:

Proprioceptors are highly specialized sensory receptors on nerve endings found in muscles, tendons and joints. They’re responsible for communicating information about motion and position between our brain and body to make us aware of our own body position and movement in space. Proprioceptors detect subtle changes in movement, position, tension and force within the body.

I’ll say it again because it’s so crazy important:

We have 10 times as many proprioceptors in our fascia than we do muscle fiber!

I’m not going to get super sciency on you, because this whole process is quite complicated when we start talking nerves, brain, muscle spindles, golgi tendons etc. The important thing is, because of the distribution of proprioceptors in our fascial system, then…

On a very physical/visceral level, our fascial system is an organ of perception!

Fascia is the main system by which we perceive ourselves – body and psyche – in the physical world.

If you have fascia that is dehydrated, brittle and/or stuck to itself in giant adhesions that aren’t allowing muscle fibers to glide quickly and efficiently or nerves to communicate effectively, then your proprioception is going to SUCK.

Think of the fascia like a superhighway for our nerves to travel between the body and brain. If that superhighway crumbles in places or gets squished to only one lane, then those nerves are going to have a much harder time traveling and communicating freely. And our sensory receptors – proprioceptors – won’t be able to communicate efficiently.

Most of us walk around every day not realizing how GOOD we can feel! We enter adulthood and get used to feeling a little creaky, achy, heavy…and since no one told us we could feel any different, that becomes our normal; slowly getting worse and worse as we age.

Well I’m here to tell you that’s NOT how we have to feel!

I do NOT believe we have to age like this. I believe, based on experience, that we can feel light, springy, bouyant and powerful as movers for as long as we want – if we take care of our fascia.

I was certainly one of those people that always felt heavy and achy, like I was carrying around a bunch of led weights…until I stumbled onto this amazing birthright we’ve been granted as human beings.

I accidentally optimized my body for peak performance as an athlete:

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Fascia, Fat Shaming and Cellulite – Are You Saying Yes to Self Abuse, or Self Love?

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Would you feel concerned if your teenage daughter, or any young woman you know, started showing up with bruises covering her body?

What if she told you she was doing this to herself to get rid of her cellulite by breaking up her fascia?

I would sit that girl down immediately and have a heart to heart about body acceptance and self love! I’d share my own struggles and triumphs with self loathing and love, and I’d share my wisdom as a fascia expert.

It may not be my 13 year old niece showing up like this (yet), but my instincts are the same.

There is a hot new product on the market right now, and…

I have to speak out.

It’s gaining rapid popularity because it’s supposed to eliminate cellulite, which the maker claims doesn’t even exist and is nothing more than tight or adhesed fascia.

A lot of you have written me privately to ask my opinion, so I knew I had to look into it. I spent a lot of time doing so and I’ve been feeling angry, sad and concerned.

I feel protective of the human body, the female psyche, and fascia – and I want to take a stand for self love.

What I saw and read researching this product was concerning to me for reasons both professional (as a fascia and pain relief expert) and personal (as a woman who once had severe body image issues).

This is NOT a product review. I haven’t used it and have no intention of doing so. I’m not in any way suggesting you shouldn’t purchase something if it speaks to you. I always advocate doing your own research, thinking for yourself and doing what feels right for YOU and your body.

I am a fascia expert and I want to speak out!

I’ve been working with people in pain using compression and active based fascial release since 2008 (click here if you want to know what I do in my private practice).

I’ve worked on people ages 5 to 80; curvy people, thin people, active, inactive, happy, depressed, self-loving and self-loathing, male, female; my clients range from amateur to professional athletes, everyday desk jockies to orthopedic surgeons…and through all this work, and my own journey with healing from debilitating knee pain, I have developed a profound respect and appreciation for the human body, and fascia in particular.

As a fascia expert I feel it’s my duty to speak up and offer an alternative opinion about fascia and cellulite.

And as a woman I feel it’s my duty to speak up about body acceptance and self love.

I’m not naming this product on purpose. If you’ve seen the ads then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Do you love or loathe your body?

By the time I turned 13 I hated my body.

I was 5’3″, I had big muscles, I had belly fat and a big butt and I knew I would never look like I was “supposed” to look – tall, skinny, toned and devoid of fat (what all the magazines and media kept telling me I should look like).

I spent years being internally abusive to myself because I was ashamed of my body and spent a lot of energy every day wishing I looked different than I did.

Can you relate?

This photo of me was taken at the beginning of my worst years of body shame (I weigh the same now as I did then). I may have had a smile on my face but there was so much self loathing going on inside, all day every day. When I think about it now I feel so sad.

I want something better for young women!

How might the world be different if we ushered girls (and boys!) through those already challenging enough teenage years by helping them – as a CULTURE – learn to LOVE their bodies, appreciate them and find a million and ten ways to have FUN and ENJOY life…instead of becoming obsessed with diets and weight loss programs and comparing ourselves to photo-shopped celebrities and models?

It took me until my 30’s to learn to LOVE my body, exactly as it is.

Right now I can tell you I adore my body. I’m so grateful for it. I love how strong I am. I love my curves. I love my butt (and so does my man!) I love my soft belly and my dimpled thighs. I feel at home in this body now. I have a reverent appreciation for every aspect of this human form I get to call home – especially my fascia, knowing the part it plays in my overall health and ability to climb mountains and run pain free while feeling light and springy.

And I gotta tell you – I have ZERO interest in this product, even though it’s meant for fascia and I’m ALL about fascia – because I LOVE my body. I have no desire to change my cellulite and bruise myself in the process of trying.

Women – our bodies are MIRACULOUS!

I haven’t had children yet; but I’m alive because of a woman’s body. My mother’s body.

Evolution gave us women a precious gift, a biological blessing because we bring children into this world: we are given extra stores of FAT so just in case of famine we have fuel stores to be able to feed babies without anyone starving!

Shouldn’t we feel grateful for this evolutionary adaptation?! It’s really quite amazing when you think about it. In years and cultures past it was the curvy women who were revered. Today, we despise this biological intelligence and shame ourselves for it. And I think that is a shame.

As adult women we teach young girls how to treat their bodies by how we treat ours – and right now, almost everywhere I look we’re still teaching young girls to hate their curves and their fat. (Though I do think it’s changing and there ARE people out there creating movements for the change I want to see, like Amy Schumer, Girls Gone Strong and my amazing friend Jade Beall.

Can we please start worshiping HEALTHY and SELF LOVING, no matter what kind of packaging those come in?

I believe we can be healthy whether we’re thin/curvy/tall/short/have cellulite/don’t have it…

I want to see us adult women teaching young girls how to LOVE their bodies.

We do this by loving OUR bodies – EXACTLY AS THEY ARE.

We do this by choosing to do things FOR ourselves and our bodies out of self love rather than TO ourselves out of self loathing.

Is cellulite nothing more than tight fascia?

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The One Rule of Effective Fascial Release, And Why Massage Doesn’t ‘Release’ Fascia

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Have you ever wondered why massage therapy doesn’t “release” fascia? I mean…those deep tissue massages hurt! They must be doing something, right?

I want to let you in on a little secret that will help you understand fascia and how to create changes within that soft tissue system that last.

First…let’s dive into a mini crash course on fascia, just in case you’re still unsure exactly what this stuff is.

What is fascia?

Fascia is a collagen-like substance that permeates the entire human body. Every nerve ending is coated in a piece of fascia, as is every muscle fibril and fiber, every muscle bundle and group, and all of this turns into tendon and ligament, which attach to our joints. Even our bones and organs are wrapped in fascia! We have more of this substance in our body than anything else.

While the picture to the right is a great example of how it wraps the muscle fibers, what that image doesn’t show is all the billions of nerves it wraps that travel within the soft tissue system, which means this stuff isn’t linear – it’s a vast and criss-crossing matrix.

Fascia is supposed to be elastic, flexible, STRONG and resilient. Since it wraps literally everything in the body that supports LIFE, I have come to believe it is meant to be almost bulletproof; like the Kevlar that protects our nerves, muscle fibers, bones and organs. (It’s much, much more than this, but this’ll do for today’s crash course).

If fascia were easily change-able we’d be in BIG trouble! Every time we bump into anything we’d damage ourselves. Heck, even sitting down would cause a re-molding of the fascia in our hips and butts if fascia were that quick to change.

Thus, it is my conclusion that fascia will not change easily due to ANY outside force attempting to change it (if it did, it would betray one of its primary roles in our evolution!)

This includes most methods of massage therapy as well as all those fancy new gadgets and gizmos one the market right now that claim to melt or release your fascia if you smash and blast it hard enough.

To truly change the fascial system, we have to ask the fascia to change itself.

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How to Choose a Body Worker for Pain Relief (Opinion)

So you’re in pain or dealing with an injury and you want the help of someone in the bodywork field to sort you out. How do you choose the BEST person for you?

This can be a daunting decision, with thousands of choices that often looks similar on paper (or the web).

If you’re NOT in pain, then my opinion is simple: see whoever you want! Do what feels good. See the person you like the most.

When you’re in pain, however, there are a few critical distinctions to make and important points to consider if you want help actually getting out of pain AND finding the root cause so it doesn’t come back.

How to choose a body worker for pain relief:

First of all, here are some very basic things to consider:

  • MANY (I would say the majority of) manual therapists – massage therapists and other body worker practitioners – are not necessarily trained to help people eliminate pain.
  • Having said that, there certainly ARE capable manual therapists and body work practitioners out there who have been trained to relieve pain at its source, and this post is designed to help you find THOSE people and learn how to differentiate between your average massage therapist or someone you would go to for relaxation vs. someone who can help you get and STAY out of pain.

First off, let’s weed out the therapists who probably CAN’T help you:

Before I list these, I want to be clear I’m not knocking these therapists or discounting their work – I think there’s room for ALL of us and room for every modality. I just think it’s important for all of us (clients and practitioners alike) to know who we are seeing and WHY, with an honest look at scope of practice. I was a massage therapist for a year (8 long years ago!) and in that time I never helped my clients eliminate their pain for good. I wasn’t trained to do that and I went through a very comprehensive training that included myofascial massage, orthorpedic massage as well as the typical deep tissue, swedish etc.

Here are the modalities and people I would NOT consider seeing if you are looking for pain relief:

  • Your corner massage chain or generic massage therapist.
  • This includes therapists whose work consists mostly of Swedish, deep tissue or very general whole body massage.

Here are the practitioners and modalities you might consider, CAREFULLY: (and use my interview questions to make a wise decision here!)

  • Massage therapists or massage businesses who list “sports massage” or something like this as an option (often an “upgrade” that you pay extra for). A lot of the time these therapists are allowed to say they practice “sports massage” when they had a few hours of training for “athletes” while they were in massage school. This does NOT mean (in my opinion) that they know how to find the root cause of pain. MAYBE THEY DO. Some people have had extra training that gives them the authority to make this claim with confidence. This is where I want to encourage you to interview people, because you never really know from the average website bio (see below for questions to ask and what to look for when interviewing practitioners).
  • Manual therapists who say they do “myofascial massage.” Like I said above, I was trained in myofascial massage but NONE of that training included teaching us how to find the ROOT cause of pain. Generally speaking, THIS IS SIMPLY A MASSAGE MODALITY or technique. It does NOT mean this person will be able to release your fascia (it takes a very skilled person to do this with their hands. They absolutely ARE out there and if you can find one of these that’s AWESOME!)
  • All other modalities that do not (necessarily) include training to find the root cause of pain, from energy work to deep body work – reiki, craniosacral therapy, shiatsu, trigger point therapy, thai massage, reflexology etc. I like to speak from personal experience and personally, I haven’t directly experienced eliminating physical pain with any energy technique. Maybe I’m not open minded enough. That said, I have friends who have and I believe them. The mind is extremely powerful! If you believe in energy work and believe your practitioner is saving your ass, then they probably will! I definitely believe in energy being stored in the body, as well as emotions, trauma etc. My personal preference is to access that energy in a very physical way. So – if energy work is your jam, carry on! As for some of the other ones I listed above, it’s for the same reasons as the above two that I list these: most of the time the training for these modalities does not include how to find the root cause of pain. This doesn’t mean there aren’t some really skilled practitioners out there who specialize in shiatsu, Thai massage or trigger point therapy that can help eliminate pain. So once again – please refer to the interview questions to help you determine if one of these practitioners is right for you.
  • ALL other body work modalities fall into this category of being potentially supportive (if you interview them and like their answers): Alexander technique, Feldenkrais, Bowen, chiropractic, Trager and Rolfing, or Structural Integration, ART, Mashing, Rossiter etc (I’m sure there are many more).
  • Just because someone was trained in something potentially helpful does NOT mean they are GOOD! Your job is to find out if they are, and their job is to make sure you know it when you call or walk into their office.

Questions to ask when interviewing a practitioner:

The very FIRST thing I urge you to ask any professional before you see them is

Question #1:

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Are You (Unknowingly) Making Your Pain WORSE? Learn to Help Your Body Find the ROOT CAUSE

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What if the FIRST thing you do when pain happens is the LAST thing you should do if you want true relief?

If you’re like most people on the planet when pain happens then you probably do the ONE thing that seems to be in our biology. It’s instinctual, habitual and seemingly benign. But chances are it WON’T get you out of pain, and it just might make things worse.

You go to and touch whatever is hurting:

  • Your knee gets a stabbing pain, folds you in half and you reach down to touch it.
  • Your back seizes up and you instinctively grab it and feel around as you try to stand upright.
  • Your shoulders hurt, so you massage them (or ask someone else to).
  • Your elbow hurts, and you grab hold of it.
  • You get a tension headache and hold your head in your hands.
  • Et etc.

This first act in and of itself is perfectly natural and it makes total sense that we’d instinctively want to make contact with our pain.

It’s what we do NEXT that truly matters.

Do you REACT to the pain and fixate on what’s hurting?

OR

Do you get CURIOUS and try to find the root cause?

The habit most of us have is to fixate on what’s hurting followed closely by an attempt to silence, comfort or eliminate the pain: maybe you take an over the counter pain killer that’s already in your medicine cabinet; maybe you gently rub or massage that area; maybe you ice it (because you probably learned the very outdated RICE protocol in middle school, which for the record I’m not a fan of at all).

When these mild reactions don’t work you might seek out help from professionals who are a little more aggressive than you: perhaps you try a deep tissue massage or a chiropractic adjustment. And while these might seem like very good ideas, if they are also fixated on the site of pain and not looking elsewhere for the CAUSE, then you’re still caught in the same trap.

Or maybe you try to isolate and immobilize the area via a knee, back, wrist or ankle brace or boot…

What’s missing from this approach?

What ALL of these reactions have in common is a complete lack of curiosity about and awareness of THE REST OF YOUR BODY.

This habit of fixating on what’s hurting at the exclusion of the rest of the body is so ingrained that most healing modalities in western culture have adopted it as well.

If you seek out a medical professional for help with your pain, chances are – unless they are very holistic in their approach to pain (and these professionals DO exist, though it’s been my experience that they are rare) – they will look at/palpate and/or X-ray, MRI or ultrasound the site of pain and suggest a course of action that focuses only on the site of pain: cortisone shots, pain pills, surgery, a brace, a boot, orthotics or shoe lifts etc.

Even so-called alternative and holistic methods more often than not (in my experience, and I was one of these when I was a massage therapist) focus on where the pain is, instead of looking for the cause. If you go to a massage therapist for back pain, I’d be willing to bet that a large majority of therapists will go straight for your back. If you go to a chiropractor for neck pain, chances are pretty high they will adjust your neck.

I will say I have sought out chiropractors, massage therapists and acupuncturists who “get” the idea that where the pain is isn’t the problem, so they absolutely do exist; but I had to weed through a bunch of others first who didn’t get it and I still see this mentality being the status quo of both western and alternative practitioners who deal with people in pain.

It’s my position that this is precisely why there are so many people in pain who aren’t getting the relief they so desperately want, because MOST of the time…

Where the pain is is NOT the problem!

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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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The #1 Factor that Affects Fascia & How PERSONALITY Plays a Big Role

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I have a question for you: what’s your personality type?

Are you a Type A person who is always on the move, always busy, alert, hardwired to check a hundred things off your to do list every day and almost incapable of chilling out? Or are you more in the camp of prioritizing slowness and relaxation into your days, preferring to let most things go unchecked off your to do list if it means staying calm? Or do you (like me) fall somewhere in between?

If you’ve gotten to know your body and its fascial patterns and textures, then maybe you’ll instantly become intrigued or laugh out loud when I tell you that all of the above personality traits are probably written all over your fascia.

How personality affects fascia:

If you are someone who thrives off of high pressure situations and is always “high strung,” then I can pretty much guarantee your fascial system reflects this.

Every client I’ve worked with who has this personality type has similar fascia: it’s STRINGY! “Wiry” people tend to have VERY wiry fascia. Not only is it stringy and wiry, but it usually feels dehydrated and unwilling to chill out. It is NOT supple and rarely feels soft even after years of working with me, and (in my opinion and experience working with clients like this over long periods of time) these people are typically far more prone to injuries involving tendon or ligament tearing/rupture and stretch reflex injuries like “pulled” hamstrings or strained forearm extensors (to name just two examples). This is because the fascial system is BRITTLE instead of hydrated and elastic.

In addition, any serious pain that does occur due to fascial or muscle imbalances appears to be far more difficult to permanently reverse than in someone who has a different personality (and thus body) type, because the fascia never reaches an ideal state of suppleness.

The clients I have who fit this description often work with me weekly for years (possibly for life), because we need to constantly keep that fascial system as healthy as possible when all it wants to do is recoil into its dehydrated stringy state.

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