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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Running & Downhill Hiking: it’s NOT the Pounding or Impact That is “BAD” For Joints – it’s THIS

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Are you one of the many people who thinks that the “pounding” during running or the “impact” of downhill hiking is bad for your joints?

I used to think this too! It was drilled into my brain on a very visceral level when I had to hike 7 miles downhill on a “bad” knee and by the time I got to the bottom I had TWO bad knees (click here for that story). I believed the terrain was the problem and I didn’t hike again for 6 YEARS! Now I know better.

With SO many people experiencing pain on the downhill, or pain through impact sports like running, it’s logical to conclude that the sport or the terrain are “bad” for your joints.

I’m here to tell you it is NOT the pounding, impact or downhill that is bad!

I never would have believed this myself had I not experienced first hand being unable to run or hike for 8 and 6 years respectively, only to find out I can hike ridiculously steep 14ers here in Colorado (mountains above 14,000 feet), even run down them, without any pain at all – if I take care of my body before going out there.

The downhill and running are NOT the problem; they simply highlight what is already dysfunctional or unhealthy in our bodies.

If you are someone who normally does NOT have pain unless you try to run or hike downhill, and only during these activities you experience foot or ankle pain, shin splints, knee pain or hip pain, then chances are…

Your fascial system has lost its SPRING!

Our body is made up mostly of fascia, and that fascial system’s make-up is like a giant web that is meant to be elastic and flexible, able to absorb impact for us while helping us ‘spring’ out of sports such as running.

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