Fascia: the key questions explained in simple terms
Many people are now familiar with fascia training and rollers. How fascia actually looks, when it can cause pain and whether it can really become sticky.
What is fascia?
The term «fascia» is Latin and means «band» or «bandage» and has been used for some time as a synonym for connective tissue.
What is fascia made of?
The components of the tissue include collagen, elastin, various adhesives and water. This gives it a decisive advantage: the tissue is elastic, stable and slippery at the same time. In some parts of the body it’s as strong as steel, in others as elastic as rubber.
Where is fascia found in the body?
The answer is: across almost the whole body. Every organ, every muscle fibre and every capsule is enveloped by connective tissue. Fascia gives our body its shape. Without it, we would quite literally fall to pieces. It’s now also known that all fascia in the body is interconnected – a mass of tissue that surrounds all our muscles, organs and bones.
Three types of fascia
- Superficial fascia lies in the subcutis and holds the body together like a protective covering
- Deep fascia encloses nerves, blood vessels, muscles and bones
- Visceral fascia surrounds organs and closes cavities
Hyaluronic acid between the fascia layers ensures mobility
To date, we know that when viewed under the microscope, fascia has several layers. Hyaluronic acid lies between the layers and acts as a lubricant. The more of it there is, the more flexible fascia tissue is. Hyaluronic acid can be liquid or solid. If we don’t move much, for example, the hyaluronic acid becomes more solid. This is why it’s also believed that regular exercise is extremely important for healthy fascia.
Can fascia become sticky?
We often read that fascia can become sticky and develop into an adhesion, which causes pain. However, it hasn’t yet been proven whether such adhesions exist at all or what they look like. The term «sticky fascia» is often mistakenly used for immobile fascia.
Does fascia cause pain?
If we don’t move our bodies enough, the fascia tissue also becomes immobile over time. In such cases, our joints take over part of the load. This in turn can lead to pain. It’s not yet clear exactly how the pain is triggered. However, it’s assumed that immobile or hardened fascia can also trigger pain.
What fascia does
Indispensable sensory organ: it uses various receptors to inform our brain about factors like tense and stretched muscles. In every movement we make, fascia is responsible for the transfer of strength and the degree to which we stretch. It carries the strength of individual muscle fibres forward and enables bundles of muscle fibres to slide smoothly.
Defines our body shape: the tissue protects and supports our bodies. It not only provides structure and a moveable wrapping, it also determines our body shape.
Body's own shock absorber: protects muscles and organs during abrupt movements and jumps.
Supplies our organs: vessels such as arteries, veins, nerves and the lymph system run through the fascia.
Strong connective tissue
Each person has their own unique connective tissue. It can range from «extremely mobile» in people with loose connective tissue right through to firm connective tissue in muscular, compactly built types. However, most people are not found at either end of the scale, but somewhere in between.
What are the benefits of fascia training?
As soon as we move, we train our fascia. Exercise is therefore the way to achieve supple tendons and ligaments and to boost the quality of all our connective tissue. Some athletes also swear by special methods such as fascia stretching, which involves bouncing movements. However, the effect of such methods is controversial.
How long does it take before the results of fascia training become noticeable?
The tissue is constantly renewing itself. Stresses and movement stimulate this process. The body replaces about half of its fascia tissue after one year – so it takes some patience.
What is a fascia roller used for?
A fascia roller massages not only the fascia, but also the muscles and all the body’s soft tissue – so the term fascia roller is somewhat misleading. A massage with such a roller can improve mobility and help relieve sore muscles. Then there’s the fascia ball, which also helps many people with tension or with fascia training on their back.
What influence does the connective tissue have on cellulite?
Cellulite and pregnancy stretch marks are more common in people with soft connective tissue, while those with firmer connective tissue are more likely to suffer injuries such as a torn Achilles tendon. Men tend to have firmer connective tissue and women usually have softer fascia tissue. But take note: this is just a tendency. It can also be the other way around.