Fascia’s role in pain and dysfunction – from injuries to myofascial pain syndrome and fight/flight/freeze patterns

Pain gets our attention (some of us faster than others!) But what is pain anyway? I think it’s useful to understand what pain is before trying to make sense of fascia’s role in pain and dysfunction (compensation).

At its simplest, pain could be described as the perception of danger. Said even simpler, pain is always perceived. That doesn’t mean it isn’t REAL. Pain happens due to nociceptors in your body communicating to your brain that something is amiss in one part of your body. Those nociceptors don’t know WHAT is wrong or how to fix it (that’s not their job). Their job is to ping you with a pain signal so you can investigate. It’s YOUR JOB to determine if the threat is credible, and if it is – do something about it to bring your body back to homeostasis, or safety.

The thing is – you (your conscious or subconscious self) can create the feeling inside that something is wrong, and your body might react to that message with a physical pain signal.

Your nervous system, mindset, beliefs about yourself – all matter when it comes to the perception of pain.

So keep that in mind as we dive into fascia’s role in pain, injury and dysfunction.

There are 3 main categories of pain that I want to cover today:

Tendon/ligament injuries, joint pain and soft tissue pain.

A tendon or ligament injury includes something like Achilles tendonitis or an ACL tear, to MCL sprains or elbow tendonitis.

Joint pain could be medically diagnosed (not by me, maybe your doctor has said this of you) as arthritis, bursitis or disc degeneration, but I would also include pain in the joint, however it is felt (sharp, nerve-like, dull and achy etc).

Soft tissue pain includes myofascial pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, connective tissue disorder etc.

Nerve pain can happen in a joint or feel like it’s in soft tissue (take sciatica for example, which shoots pain down the leg), so I am not creating a separate category for it but rather including it here.

In the video I break down the role fascia plays in each of these, but the general theory is this:

Fascia wraps every nerve ending, muscle fibril, muscle fiber etc. Fascia is tendon and ligament, just a more fibrous dense version. Fascia largely dictates circulation, because all of your arteries and veins run through the soft tissue structure (aka, your fascial system). Fascia can pull joints out of alignment, irritate nerves, and block precious blood flow that is necessary for tendons and ligaments, joints etc to be happy. Beyond that, fascia is largely responsible for the synthesizing of collagen and hyaluronic acid, both of which are crucial for cellular repair and healing. And finally, fascia has its own pain receptors and responds to chemical messengers like fear or cortisol, and can actually thicken in response.

With all of this in mind it starts to become clear how fascia plays a big role in pain of all kinds, and the healing of it, whether the pain is tendon/ligament, joint or more soft tissue. And beyond these three, you can probably deduce how it might play a role in trauma or stress induced physical pain.

Please share one takeaway from this video that surprised or inspired you! I’ll see you in the comments.

  • Claire Beach. says:

    Over thirties years people have given me hope then It’s disappeared for a while because the treatment hasn’t worked. i don’t blame them, they tried their best . my philosophy has been with out hope there is nothing, so i continue to be hopeful. I know I have a chronic problem. I’m new to your blog, so have only just started watching some of your video’s and it makes so much sense. My hope is stronger all ready as this is something I can try myself , following your video. I still spend a lot of time in bed with the pain but as soon as i’m able i will try some of the techniques. from looking at some of the comments left. pain is a huge problem with little help from Doctors etc. I also think you are providing a wonderful chance for many to reach their full potential and for others to at least help themselves to try and relieve some of their pain. I love that your goal is to help people and that is a wonderful thing to be able to do. I admire that. i think maybe you have been through a lot, although I know nothing about you but you are amazing.
    Thank you,

  • Mona Daignault says:

    I think you must be an angel. You are helping so many. Can you feel good vibes you’re attracting that are constantly flowing to you, through you and all around you <3 On behalf of so many, thank you for your invaluable assistance in sharing your knowledge in how to understand, listen and communicate with our bodies in order attain a pain free body, no matter how long it’s been neglected.

    • Thank you Mona for sending that wonderful energy my way! I appreciate it. I hope this information helps a lot of people.

  • cliff says:

    over a life time and the stress from trauma brings with it memory of the[ event IAM 68 now as i reach with my leg for home plate i broke4 my ankle the pain was recorded in the brain and any time the memory of that moment enters my mind the pain in my aklel come back just like i broke it all over again.

  • Excellent video–very informative . I particularly like the belief that we are all responsible for our own health and well being. Is mind over matter a reality. Many thanks–Kathnell

    • Thank you for sharing Kathnell! Personal responsibility is SO important. Glad you get that 🙂

  • Sharon says:

    I’m learning and understanding so much about fascia, my struggle comes with applying fascia release and fascia shredding. Like diet and exercise, working on my fascia release around the areas of pain that I’m feeling is a discipline. I understand that. Healing and taking care of my body as a whole, is making me go deeper within myself, to help myself. Which is a good thing. I feel I’m on the cusp of breaking through to heal (and take care) of myself. Watching and learning from your videos is my motivator right now. Thank you.

    • Hi Sharon, I love hearing that you feel you’re on the cusp of breaking through! That discipline and commitment will get you there. Doing fascia release effectively definitely takes practice, it’s not a one and done…so you’re doing everything right!

  • Amanda Stewart says:

    Hi Elisha. So pleased I watched your video this morning. I am am physiotherapist in England and I am going to forward your link to various people. Too many patients are told doom and gloom stories by medics and it sets in your ‘nocebo’ (thank you never heard the word but so true). I learned a lot thanks – I work on fascia and generally in the whole body (as well as specifically) – so great to hear your understanding and facts re e.g. collagen and hyaluronic acid.
    Many thanks will continue to listen

    • Hi Amanda! Thanks for sharing the blog/video 🙂 I’m so glad you find all this nerdy stuff helpful for you and clients.

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