- Fascia (connective tissue) contains fibroblasts that synthesize collagen and components of the ECM (extracellular matrix).
- Fasciacytes synthesize HA (which imbibes the water you drink and helps hydrate every cell of your body).
- When it comes to fascia, it has a mind blowing “proof resilience” of 2,000lbs.
Why the above matters:
Fibroblasts are morphologically different from Fascicytes (which I’ll discuss below). Fibroblasts are the main cell in your body responsible for synthesizing collagen, which is the most abundant protein in your body. Collagen is made of amino acids, is the main component of connective tissue and it’s found in abundance in tendons, ligaments, cartilage, your gut, intervertebral discs and blood vessels. Fibroblasts in fascia respond to pin and stretching methods. Knowing about the differences between fibroblasts and what they offer in terms of pain relief and human optimization, compared to fasciacytes and what those cells offer, is (I believe) key to getting the result you want.
What exactly do these newly discovered fasciacytes respond to, in order to synthesize hyaluronic acid endemically? Remember, hyaluronic acid is responsible for muscle, nerve and gliding, cellular hydration and fascial resilience (which we’ll talk about below).
Collagen is important because it contains the protein building blocks for repair; collagen rich bones, tendons and ligaments will be strong and likely resistant to tears. However, collagen is very “gluey” and I believe when fascia lacks hyaluronic acid (and as a result, water) and contains too much collagen in comparison, this is when fascia starts to stick to itself in dense ropes or knots.
Hyaluronic acid (otherwise known as hyalurnon, which I am calling HA for short) is critical for smooth muscle gliding, wound healing, protection from free radicals and fascial hydration….to name just a few key points. Muscle and fascia gliding of course is critical for optimal movement function, and a LACK of this gliding can result in fascia thickening or hardening. This is your body’s best attempt to maintain function despite a less than ideal inner environment. But fascial thickening or hardening can lead to pain in and of itself (remember: your fascia contains its own pain receptors), potentially implicit in fibromyalgia, myofascial pain syndrome and connective tissue disorder to name just a few.
A few episodes ago you learned about the Fasciacyte. This is a newly named cell that lives in the extracellular matrix (ECM) of your fascia. Fasciacytes are responsible for fascial gliding through their production of hyaluronin. HA is critical for smooth joint articulation (it’s the primary ingredient in synovial fluid, and synthetic versions of HA are being injected into joints for pain relief….but your body can produce its own HA without any negative side effects!)
HA gives your fascia its plump, supple, soft, hydrated look and feel. If your HA stores never dwindled you would look 25 at age 80! Ladies – have you noticed how many face creams claim to contain HA?!
Your body can produce its own hyaluronic acid, giving you a youthful appearance if you learn how to help your body create deep HA wells. Fountain of youth anyone?!
On a more practical level, an abundant HA rich ECM will help you heal wounds quickly, since HA plays a key role in angiogenesis (new blood vessels forming from older ones to speed skin and wound healing). HA also scavenges the body for free radicals – damaging to DNA and healthy cells, and believed to contribute to premature aging and diseases like cancer. Thus, HA may be critical for disease and illness prevention (or reversal). I’m practically falling off my chair right now in excitement learning all of this alongside you, because I’ve wondered for years if maintaining healthy fascia could help prevent certain neurological diseases (like Parkinson’s) or aid in cancer healing…but I didn’t have the science connecting the dots.
Last point here – and it deserves its own bullet point: cellular hydration. If you’re dehydrated, you get sick. If it persists, you die. As most of us know, humans can go a LONG time without eating. Not so with water. We need water. We are supposed to be up to 70% water after all. Yet a lot of modern humans are hovering around 55% water. And sure, it’s important to drink about half your body weight in ounces per day. HOWEVER – and this is super important! – if your cells can’t GET the water you’re drinking into themselves, it doesn’t matter how much water you drink, you’re still dehydrated.
Imagine this: you are essentially a giant paper bag filled with water. If you lose the water, you shrivel up and look like a crumpled paper bag. That youthful appearance we all chase as adults? At the root it’s about cellular hydration (and HA). If you want youthful resilient fascia that can withstand enormous demands (in the form of stress, physical load, intense activity etc) then you better be willing to help your fascia create HA. This could get super sciency, but I’ll leave it at this: HA imbibes water wherever it lives (in cartilage, joints, fascia, gut ECM etc). The amount of water in a given area (cartilage, fascia etc) determines its resilience. We’ll talk more about resilience next week 🙂
In material science, the term “resilience” refers to a material’s ability to absorb energy when elastically, and release that energy upon unloading without deforming. The irony here is that fascia is, by nature, designed to resist being deformed (even if the deforming is more like re-forming, and for its own good). Even when it’s severely unhealthy (dehydrated, brittle) and unable to do what it once could for you, it still tries to protect you. That’s your body working on your behalf. The chemical messengers YOU send to your body will, in part, determine whether that protection mechanism gets switched ON. If you’re afraid of your body, if you’re afraid of the sensations you feel during a massage or on a foam roller, your body will go into protect mode.
In material science, “proof resilience” defines the maximum amount of energy that can be absorbed by a material up to its elastic limit, without creating a permanent distortion.
Fascia has been proven able to withstand up to 2,000lbs of force!
So when fascia has proof resilience, that means you could have an adolescent elephant standing on your IT BAND and as soon as the elephant steps off, you should be able to release that energy without any permanent distortion occurring! I’m JESTING of course, but technically speaking your fascia is capable of absorbing up to 2,000lbs of mechanical stress or energy without injury.
If you want OPTIMIZED fascia, you need to activate as many fasciacytes as you can all over your body, because it’s the water content of your fascia that is largely responsible for its elasticity and ability to absorb and release energy. Conversely, if your elastic limit is 10lbs then you know your fascia has a ways to go before it has proof resilience again (you had it as a kid). You can reverse the age of your fascia and create resilience and proof resilience if you’re committed. And faster than you think. However, as we’ve talked about before – whether you get there or not is largely determined by your nervous system (as I mentioned above).
Share your takeaways below, I love nerding out with you.