Updated: Mar 20, 2022
133 million Americans—nearly half of America—suffer from a preventable chronic disease. See how healthy fascia can be part of your prevention plan and contribute to optimal health.
Taking a comprehensive approach to health is the best way to prevent illness. Just by making healthy habits, diet, and lifestyle modifications you can avoid most chronic diseases. The health initiative I want to challenge you to focus on today is taking care of your fascia.
133 million Americans suffer from a preventable chronic disease.
The fascinating fascia
Did you know fascia has officially been named an organ? Because research is starting to unveil the complexities and the critical nature of fascia, it has recently been the focus of a lot of media attention (for good reason). Fascia is the connective tissue that forms a matrix around all of your muscles, tissues, bones, and organs, covering every single structure in your body, from head to toe. Fascia gives your body shape, allows movement, and has even been shown to store memories!
Think of fascia as a web
Over time, our fascia gets stiff and tightened due to poor repetitive daily posture, chronic stress, or physical and emotional trauma. When we are stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious, we tend to white knuckle our way through life. This physical tension tightens the muscles and fascia, causing the fascia to harden and restrict. Ouch! Because the fascia is so intricately interconnected, studies have shown that an issue like TMJ in the jaw may actually be caused by a tightening of the pelvic floor!
This leads us to the first fascial protocol:
1. Release the fascia!
Myofascial release is what we're talking about here. Tight fascia is every bit as painful and restrictive as a tight muscle. And while I do recommend lots of stretching, independently, stretching is unable to fully release the fascia. The aim of myofascial release is to stimulate the fascia with touch and techniques that stretch and restore the natural elasticity of tight or hardened fascia.
Visualize making a pie (a healthy, organic pie), with a lump of dough sitting on your counter next to a rolling pin. Now, imagine your body is your pie dough and your body roller is your rolling pin. You use that rolling pin and apply pressure to the wadded up ball of dough to stretch and smooth it into a more desirable shape. This is what a body roller does to your fascia. The gentle pressure stimulates mechanoreceptors in the fascia to induce relaxation and restore elasticity. You're literally rolling out the kinks. Many people body roll after a workout, which is an excellent idea, but you can body roll any time and achieve benefits.
Alternative myofascial release therapies
You don't have to use a body roller to achieve myofascial release. You can also use massage (self or administered), gua sha (I'll cover this more in a later post), acupuncture, or take an epsom salt bath to name a few alternative techniques. Sometimes, I like to soak in an epsom salt bath while doing gua sha after I've body rolled. It generally makes me pretty sore right off the bat, but I've found it dramatically reduces my recovery time after a tough workout.
2. Multiply myofascial minerals
Your fascia is made up of collagen fibers, so one of the most AMAZING things you can feed your fascia is collagen! I've mentioned before that I (typically) consume a whole food plant-based diet, but several times a week I find I feel better when I also consume organic and humanely raised animal protein. My favorite tonic for a fascia-lift is a high-quality chicken bone broth since it's full of collagen, calcium, hyaluronic acid, and other health-promoting nutrients that can strengthen your fascia. Or you could even supplement with a hiqh-quality collagen supplement.
Magnesium is a catalyst for more than 300 enzymatic reactions in your body. Magnesium acts as a muscle relaxer and can be enough to restore the proper functionality in sore, strained muscles. Based on magnesium’s many functions within the body, it plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of fascia health as well. Taking an epsom salt bath is a great way to achieve your magnesium quota and relax your fascia, or if you're on the go and need to supplement your diet you may benefit from a high-quality magnesium supplement.
I mentioned this above as an added benefit of consuming chicken bone broth, but it's worth mentioning again. Hyaluronic acid is concentrated within the fascia. All the fascial layers use hyaluronic acid as a lubricant which helps it glide and keeps it flexible. So, feeding your fascia hyaluronic acid is a great way to optimize its health. You can obtain natural hyaluronic acid from bone broth, soy (organic please), leafy greens, root veggies, and citrus fruits.
3. Myofascial meditation
Visualize, breathe, repeat. Remember when I mentioned that fascia stores memories? Everything in your life that has caused an emotional reaction has been accumulated and retained in your fascia. Have you ever gotten emotional during a massage or acupuncture session (I have, and it wasn't pretty)? This is a good thing, as it's an indicator that your fascia is releasing trauma.
It is crucial for your fascial health to place time aside to release these traumas. This is especially impactful while you are body rolling or doing one of the previously listed alternative therapies.
Visualizing allows you to acknowledge your trauma and release it. This disempowers the memory and promotes healing. Visualize your specific trauma, whether it's physical or emotional, literally imagine it melting away or flowing down the drain and leaving your presence. By allowing this emotional and visual release, it enables physical relief.
You always hear about how important breathing is. But even more so in terms of your fascia because your diaphragm is fascia. By breathing with your diaphragm, you are stretching and relaxing the fascial structure. Focus on diaphragm pranayama (yoga term for breathing with your diaphragm). You can find a ton of YouTube videos to aid you through the practice, but here's a quick and dirty from an amateur yogi:
I recommend lying down on your back and closing your eyes and/or performing in tandem with one of the above therapies. But, just get comfortable. As you begin to inhale through your nose, contract your abdominal muscles to keep your stomach from rising. Continue inhaling while you fill your lungs with air without allowing your belly to rise or fall (you want to use your diaphragm, not your stomach). Slowly exhale, and keep your abdomen level as you allow your ribs to return to their starting position.
Once you have it down, continue doing breath work while incorporating visualization.
While I challenge you to adopt as many health-promoting techniques as you possibly can, don't overwhelm yourself. Simply start by implementing one of these practices and gradually continue incorporating new healthy habits, foods, or lifestyle modifications into your routine to allow your fascia to unwind and release.
Now discover how to naturally reduce and eliminate anxiety
Bordoni, B., Mahabadi, N., & Varacallo, M. (2020). Fascia Anatomy. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing.
Casato, G., Stecco, C., & Busin, R. (2019). Role of fasciae in nonspecific low back pain. European journal of translational myology, 29(3), 8330. doi: 10.4081/ejtm.2019.8330
Gröber, U., Schmidt, J., & Kisters, K. (2015). Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients, 7(9), 8199–8226. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7095388
Minasny B. (2009). Understanding the process of fascial unwinding. International journal of therapeutic massage & bodywork, 2(3), 10–17. https://doi.org/10.3822/ijtmb.v2i3.43
Tozzi, P. (2014). Does Fascia Hold Memories? Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (18)2, 259-265. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2013.11.010