Fascia and Its Affect on Injury

Illustration of a human back showing the muscle fibres
November 29, 2017

D3 Staff


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I used to think of fascia like a saran wrap surrounding tissues in the body and as such, I did not find it particularly exciting. During the first semester of physical therapy school, however, when I had an opportunity to dissect a cadaver, I started to understand and appreciate it as a more complex organ. Yes, the latest research refers to fascia as an organ. By definition, fascia is a continuous interconnected network that permeates almost every part of the body. For the purpose of readability and relevance to our audience, the focus will be directed to fascia in relation to the muscle tissue.

Fascia is dense tissue primarily composed of collagen that surrounds muscles. Fascia is not a separate structure “slapped” on top of the muscle for enforcement and protection. Instead, think of it as a three-dimensional matrix, continuous with ligaments and tendons. Fascia is rich in mechanoreceptors, which are sensory receptors that monitor structural changes in the tissue. The receptors found in fascia are Golgi, Pacini, Ruffini and interstitial. They monitor tone, proprioceptive feedback, and sympathetic activity respectively. They respond to muscle contraction, pressure changes, and sustained pressure.

One can see that by affecting receptors we are affecting fascia and by affecting fascia the muscular and nervous systems as a whole are pulled in the process of rehabilitation. Literature is describing at least six possible distortions to the fascia: trigger bands, herniated trigger points, continuum distortion, folding distortion, cylinder and tectonic fixation. Each of these dysfunctions will present differently and a trained practitioner will be able to identify and treat it accordingly. 

A self-care tip from a specialist on fascial distortion, Tracy Byarlay, includes a combination of foam rolling and "voodoo flossing". Byarlay states that rolling by itself compresses fascia. Flossing, on the other hand, breaks off the crosslinks and enhances profusion to the affected area. He suggests combining the two techniques for an optimum effect.

Our bodies are complex. There are many structures that can be involved in an injury and what works for one person might not work for someone else. Fascia is just one example of a tissue that can cause long-term dysfunction if not treated properly. Take the time to find a trained practitioner that understands the body well and is able to identify the driver of pain as well as their own limitations in knowledge and willingness to refer elsewhere if their skill set cannot correct the problem. 

Coach Martina observes that most athletes like to concentrate on the aspect of training that they are the most comfortable with, which are often long workouts with low effort (volume emphasis). While volume does play a role, shorter workouts at high effort (intensity emphasis) are also very important. Knowing when to do what type of training is crucial in succeeding and staying injury free. As a coach and a muskuloskeletal expert, I create plans that enhance physiological strengths of an individual and correct his or her weaknesses, which makes training fun, efficient and effective.

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