Your body’s fascia is a thin, very dense sheet of collagen fibers that are meshed together to create a protective covering that envelopes all of the moving parts of your body. Most people believe that the muscles, skeleton, connective tissues and organs are all jumbled together. They don’t realize that every moving part of the body, including the organs, is wrapped in a thin, very resilient layer of fascia. Fascia is one of the most durable parts of the body, but it is also one that is most affected by the aging process.
What Does the Fascia Do?
The collagen fibers that make up the fascia are interwoven together to create a dense sheet of tissue that moves with the body. Because the fascia lies between body parts, it prevents them from sticking together or reacting to the friction that is caused as the body moves. Not only does it provide what the body needs for fluid movements, it also acts as a stabilizer. It contracts and flexes just like your muscles.
Within its smooth matrix, you will find all of the components of a secondary nervous system that reacts to everything you expose your body to, including stress. Fascia is found throughout the body and contains valuable information that every cell in the body relies on to function properly. Much like the skin that covers the outside of your body, your fascia is one continuous sheet of tissue that reacts as one unit to everything it is exposed to.
How Does Aging Affect the Fascia?
As you age, your body produces less and less collagen. This has a dramatic effect on the fascia throughout your body. With less collagen, the fascia starts to dry out and tighten. It becomes restrictive, making it more difficult for the body to move efficiently. The tighter the fascia becomes, the higher your risk of chronic pain, inflammation and even injury. Your mobility is reduced and it becomes harder to move. Over time, the cycle between lack of movement and increased pain and discomfort becomes more and more pronounced.
Since fascia is found throughout the body, there are many ways aging can affect it. Inflammation from arthritis can affect the fascia that surrounds a joint. It can cause the fascia to thicken and become scarred, especially if there is a direct injury. The more immobile the joint becomes, the more damage there will be to the fascia. A healthy diet full of calcium and magnesium is essential to help maintain the connective tissues. This also encourages the body to maintain its production of collagen, that in turn reduces the risk of chronic pain and discomfort.
Fascia massage and techniques like myofascial release can be used to loosen the fascia, making it easier for you to move more comfortably. Stretching and manipulating the fascia through different therapies encourages the body to produce more collagen fibers and helps to draw fluid back into the tissues, so it’s easier for them to move more freely.
Much like muscles have memory, fascia is connected to your emotions. When the fascia is tight and lacking in flexibility, it may be partially due to feelings or emotions you have not dealt with. Many massage therapists claim that their clients sometimes become emotional during a massage. Part of this is due to the release of emotions and memories that may be trapped in the muscles and the fascia. Fascia massage works to free not only the body, but the mind as well.
What Are the Benefits of Keeping the Fascia Flexible?
There are many benefits to keeping the fascia flexible and resilient. Not only does it improve your circulation and help you maintain your mobility, but you’ll reap other benefits.
Get moving to keep your fascia flexible and malleable. Maintaining a regular workout or activity schedule will ensure that your range of motion and flexibility will remain as fluid as possible. When it comes to collagen, the more active you are, the more collagen the body will produce. If you want to reap the benefits of having healthy fascia, you must do the things that keep your fascia in its healthiest state.
The more active you are as you age, the more likely you will be to maintain your range of motion and flexibility. By using fascia massage and stretching exercises, you can keep the tissue fluid and flexible. Using deep tissue massage can actually break up areas of scar tissue that may be hindering your movements or causing inflammation and chronic pain.
Because fascia surrounds the joints in the same way it surrounds the organs, it’s important to keep your joints as healthy as possible. Many people think that exercise only affects the muscles. This is far from true. The actions of the muscles during exercise have a direct impact on the bones and connective tissues. Maintaining a regular exercise schedule helps keep the joints healthy by improving circulation and strengthening the cartilage and other connective tissues.
While many people go to a licensed massage therapist for a whole-body session, there are fascia massage techniques you can do at home. Several tools on the market that can be used to loosen and stretch the fascia on your face, arms, back, thighs, basically anywhere on the body. You can also find massage pads for your back and feet as well.
In addition to the massage, you can also use stretching exercises. They can be performed several times a day from almost anywhere and will help you to maintain both flexibility and range of motion. You will also notice rather quickly that your circulation will also begin to improve. Stretching clears away the blockages that can start to form when you spend long hours sitting behind a desk. If you’re over the age of 50, a few good stretches can do wonders for how you feel after being stuck in a chair or behind the wheel of a car.
Your fascia has many purposes and serves you well whether you realize it or not. Taking care of it not only will improve your body’s ability to function physically, it will also boost your energy and allow you to think more clearly. Learn to pamper yourself with a deep tissue massage or perform fascia massage on yourself. Throw in a few stretching exercises whenever you start to feel your muscles tighten. You will be amazed at how good you feel afterward.
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