#FastFasciaFacts EP03 – Lymph System, Proprioception, Soft Tissue Pain Explained?

This is EPISODE 03 of our #FastFasciaFacts series, where I list 3 important facts about fascia and then give you my theory about why each one matters and how to use this knowledge to heal faster and achieve optimal health.

  1. Your lymph system lives inside superficial fascia.
  2. Fascia has 10x more proprioceptors than muscle fiber.
  3. Fascia has its own pain receptors 

Why this matters (my theories):

1. Your lymph system is responsible for detoxing you effectively, whether from toxicity like heavy metals or infectious invaders that could kill you. The main function of the lymph system is to carry infection fighting white blood cells throughout your body. But the lymph also carries waste and other unwanted substances OUT of your body. The lymph lives INSIDE your superficial fascia – the fascia closest to your skin – and is composed of lymph nodes (that collect waste) and lymph vessels (the part that moves white blood cells or waste around the body). What is most important for you to understand is lymph can’t move itself, it has no pump. What moves lymph is the muscles and fascia – through movement like exercise, OR by manual movement (like fascial release or lymph massage). If your fascial system is congested – what do you think happens to your lymph system?

2. Proprioception is the ability of your brain to detect your body in space and conduct movement; it’s also how your body assesses your posture and alignment at any given time, and is largely responsible for good BALANCE (super important period, but critical as we all age!) Proprioceptors are the nerve messengers that conduct movement by cueing muscles and fascia to contract. The fact that you have TEN TIMES as many proprioceptors in your fascia than muscle fiber should really get your attention if you want to move well. For all of you athletes, this is critical. Your movement potential is dependent on healthy fascia. Your balance is dependent on fluid healthy fascia that can effectively communicate nerve impulses.

You can get “faster” and “stronger”  by releasing fascia (freeing up your movement potential and optimizing those nerve communication channels).

If the whole proprioception thing really interests you, check out this older blog post and YouTube video all about proprioception and movement potential.

3. Fascia has its own pain receptors. I believe this is one major cause of myofascial pain syndrome, fibromyalgia etc. What you’re actually feeling is pain at the site of restriction which is within the soft tissue (not bone, nerves or other common sites of injuries and widely acknowledges sites of pain). This kind of pain can be body-wide too, rather than isolated to one location.

Of course, it may be far more complex and involve trauma patterns or chronic fear/stress; or your fascia may be perceiving pain the soft tissue directly due to not feeling safe in your own body or life (this is really common in any of us with a history of trauma, abuse or shame).

When you experience the freedom that comes from effective fascia release, you’ll start to actually feel your fascia getting unhealthy again…

It will ache, or feel restless (restless legs anyone?!) and you may even start to crave the weight of compression. This is true whether you have a diagnosis like myofascial pain syndrome or not. As a quick aside, I dislike labeling pain as a disease, syndrome or anything like that. You feel pain. That’s it. Your body is getting your attention, and there are solutions for every message your body sends you. 

Your turn! What are YOUR theories about fascia (maybe your fascia in particular), given the Fascia Facts I shared today? Do you agree/disagree with my theories! 

Share below 🙂

  • I have to say, Elisha that you are such an excellent teacher. Ty for sharing your knowledge with us. I’ve learned more from you than I’ve learned from any massage course I’ve taken over the last 37 yrs! I continue to share all your videos with my clients and talk about you to everyone I come in contact with. I amaze myself how I can work you into any conversation! That’s how much I honor your journey. Thank you!!!

  • Claire Beach. says:

    Hiya, excellent information I’ll have to check your Lymph drainage video to sort that out.. With you all the way on proprioception. When I was an athlete it was excellent. After years of doing nothing I was very aware that I’d lost most of it. I would lay crooked thinking I was laying straight. I would dropped things as I misjudged the distance and grip. I’d loose my balance easily Etc.On Fascia having it’s own pain receptors, Your explanation that myofascial pain syndrome and fybromyalgia is the result of pain receptors in the fascia makes total sense. Once again you have hit the nail on the head.

    • Hi Claire, aways great to hear your takeaways and thoughts! Thanks for sharing. Hopefully you’re starting to reverse all of that? It takes dedication and persistence but I KNOW you have those! 🙂

  • Stella says:

    Hi Elisha! Love love all your videos. I am learning so much.
    My take away was with the proprioception in the fascia and pain receptors in fascia. As someone who had an incident where I injured my knee seemingly out of nowhere, this is all starting to make sense. I now make releasing my fascia an almost daily part of my life. The flexibility, mobility and pain relief I get from fascial release has been a life saver. I’m not sure I’d be walking if it weren’t for it.
    Thank you for your videos and wonderful explanations. Look forward to the next video!

    • Hi Stella! Yay!! I love hearing all of this. So glad you’re walking and (it sounds to me like?) you’re less afraid of the pain, which is always important. That whole “making sense” of our pain is huge! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Julie Shaw says:

    Hi Elisha,

    Is great to have you back! Great information as usual.

    I wanted to comment about the link between fascia and it’s pain receptors and how our body stores memories. I always knew there was a link between mind and body, but when I recently reread something about an incident that happened almost 3 years ago, (bullying) as I was reading it my whole body recoiled and I was racked with pain. I was not expecting this document, nor the impact it would have on my body by just reading about this incident! Over the next few days I had to do a lot of mindfulness/meditation to release this pain! As soon as it happened I recalled you speaking about trauma and the physical impact it has on our bodies. Now reading about the superficial fascia underneath the skin it makes perfect sense!

    Thank you for helping us understand how the body and mind are intrinsically connected.

    • You’re welcome Julie! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It’s amazing how certain memories or bodily experiences get triggered right? Good work on letting it move through you!

  • Martha says:

    Hi Elisha! Great to see and hear you after your self-care respite! Really hope you’re doing well. Yes, I strongly believe all of the points you raise are key to fascial health and overall mind-body wellbeing.

    One of my take-aways is your point on proprioception, as it helps to explain an unusual incident I encountered several months ago when I fell on a cement sidewalk. It was a full-body faceplant that I didn’t see coming and which horrified my husband and shocked me. I didn’t feel like I tripped or stumbled on anything and I didn’t feel my self losing control and then trying to re-gain my balance, as one would normally do. I just suddenly found myself going face-down, inches from the sidewalk with my arms outstretched in an effort to brace my fall. Honestly, I don’t recall falling like that since I was a toddler. In hindsight, I had previously had flu and remnants of a heavily congested ear, so I figured it was my vestibular system impacting my balance — however my ENT disagreed. It seems pretty clear it was a proprioception issue of some sort, and quite likely attributable to unhealthy fascia. With that in mind, your point about getting a jump on creating healthy fascia earlier rather than later in life is extremely well taken. You’re right, it’s far better to regain fascial health when we have the mobility and flexibility to get on foam rollers and do fascial release than to miss our physical window of opportunity!!

    Your point about the importance of fascial health as a prerequisite for lymphatic health, and our inherent need to effectively detox, is also critical. Given the sedentary nature of computer work and desk jobs, the need for consistent movement and lymphatic flow is of huge importance in strengthening immunity and preventing disease. I recently purchased a standing workstation and I LOVE it, yet you’re still in a relatively stationary position that doesn’t really enhance movement or lymphatic flow when working for extended periods. All of this to say that all of your points seem right on target, as always!! It’s so great to see your smiling face and I so appreciate your sharing your wisdom and insights, as always. Big hugs to you and Stefan!

    • Hi Martha! Thank you for sharing your takeaways, I always love hearing from you 🙂 Proprioceptions gets more and more important as we age, and it’s one of the big determinants of when we die – since the brain starts to assume we’re heading towards death the less we move around, and if we can’t get up and down with ease that tells the brain we’re closer to death. Scary to consider AND empowering, because we can do something about it! And yeah the lymph is so so important. Big hugs to you too!

  • Susan Nye says:

    I don’t know if this applies, but I had a cortisone injection in my shoulder for what they are calling impingement. About 4 days later my traps, deltoids, all the way over to my spine became super inflamed and painful. I feel like there are knives sticking in my back most of the time. Is that due to the pain receptors in the fascia flaring up. Laser treatments can take away the pain for about four days, but then it flares again. I’m also getting chiropractic adjustments that I don’t know if they help or hinder. I don’t know if it is muscle or fascia, but it is more pain than I’ve ever had.

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