By Christine Nguyen, Physiotherapist and Clinical Pilates Instructor
We’ve all heard of muscles, ligaments, and tendons, but what is fascia? Fascia is a connective tissue that is widespread throughout our entire bodies. It’s made primarily of collagen and is wrapped around every muscle, bone, nerve, and organ. Its role is to support muscle shape and stabilise the body by connecting otherwise separate muscles and organs. On the same token, it also plays a role in compartmentalising muscle groups from organs and other elements of the body so that they stay independent.
Fascia also plays an important role in force distribution and enables force coupling – for example the co-contraction of the latissimus dorsi and the opposite gluteal via the thoracolumbar fascia, a movement that is required for things like walking, running or throwing. These connections are commonly referred to as myofascial slings (muscle-fascial), and you may have heard terms like ‘posterior sling’, ‘anterior oblique sling’ and ‘lateral sling’ used in the clinic or gym. Basically, certain muscles are connected via fascia to another muscle, and when contracted together, the fascia acts as a conductor of force that allows the body to coordinate movement.
Fascia is rigid, strong and cannot be stretched. It can, however, become ‘sticky’ and adhere to surrounding tissues, thereby limiting mobility. The most common example of fascia is the Iliotibial Band, or ITB, that runs down the outside of your thigh. The reason foam rolling can be effective is not from physical stretching occurring at the band itself, but from the quad muscle underneath, and the breaking up of adhesions between the ITB and the underlying muscle. Breaking up this ‘stickiness’ can allow the tissues to slide better and thereby improve mobility.
Another common example of fascia in the body is in the shin. The fascia in the shin compartmentalises the lower leg into a front, back and side section. If this fascia becomes adhesive and restrictive, it can present as shin pain or shin splints.
Myofascial release techniques are often used by physiotherapists and remedial massage therapists at QV Physiotherapy to improve the mobility of the fascia with its surrounding tissues. It can be a great source of pain relief, depending on the injury. If you feel like you are suffering from fascial related pain, or you would like to know more, please don’t hesitate to chat to one of our physiotherapists or massage therapists on (03) 9650 4149.