Fascial Fitness

In your never-ending quest to find the newest trends in fitness you have witnessed people rolling around on the floor on top of a foam cylinder. As they roll over this foam they make all sorts of faces of agony, some will moan or even scream out in pain. You think to yourself, “Can this really be good for you?” “There must be a a good reason for doing something like that.”

Well, according to the latest research there are definitely a few good reasons. By rolling on top of the foam cylinder that person is performing what is known as myofascial release. If you are not familiar with this term then perhaps an explanation would be a good place to start.

According to R. Louis Schultz, author of The Endless Web, “myofascia is a flexible network of tissue that surrounds, cushions, and supports muscles, bones, and organs. It also acts as a riverbed containing the flow of interstitial fluid and is a critical influence on the immune and hormonal systems. In daily life, this connective tissue i s an underlying determinant of movement quality, mood, alertness, and general well-being.” Fascia In essence connects everything together in our bodies. Our skin to our muscles, our muscles to our tendons, our tendons to other tendons which connect to other muscles, not to mention that it surrounds all of our internal organs.

Although fitness has been a part of American life since the mid-1800s, it is just in the last twenty years we are beginning to discover the importance of fascia and the role that it plays in our daily life. I will be going more in depth into fascial fitness in future blogs however for the time being I will simplify matters as to the importance of myofascial release in the form of foam rolling, sport sticks, foam balls, and sports balls.

Humans are three-dimensional creatures. We are meant to move forward and backwards, side to side, and rotate left and right. Our fascia is meant to be pliable and to allow three-dimensional movement. When full functional movement occurs on a daily basis fascia receives the attention it needs, the circulation it needs, and the excitation it needs. Unfortunately for most Americans movement consists of small forward and backward actions, very little side movements and very little rotation. When movement is reduced fascia becomes compressed further restricting future movement. With compression comes a reduction in circulation and the result is a reduction of movement quality.

When our movement is restricted so too are our options. Our bodies nonetheless will adapt to these new restrictions in the form of compensation. Compensation is merely a way of being successful in achieving a desired goal. Unfortunately compensation will often lead to even more compensation and more restriction until ultimately we have no other way to compensate and pain occurs. One of the most common symptoms of compensation is low back pain. 80-90% of everyone you meet will at least at one time in their life experience low back pain. With the exception of traumatic injuries the majority of this back pain is due to restricted movement and compensation. More often than not the restriction occurs surrounding the fashion in the muscles of the hips.

Therefore, if we had a way of releasing the tension in the fascia and muscle surrounding the hips would we reduce the chance of low back pain? The answer is most definitely. If we are receiving shoulder pain because of restriction in our mid back around our shoulders or even perhaps anywhere in our body if we were to find the restricted areas through foam rolling could that improve the function of the entire body? The answer again is most definitely.

Myofascial release is not the only answer but it can be considered a successful ingredient in your recipe for a pain-free existence and in improved way of moving.

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