Dr. Eric Hefferon is a Physical Therapist, strength & conditioning professional, and a competitive fitness enthusiast from Glendale, Arizona. Today, he’s got some great advice on how you can take better care of your fascia, feel great, and perform at your very best.
Enjoy and share,
I want to talk to you about fascia, so that you can better understand your body and why you’re likely not be performing at your best.
Fascia is the connective tissue or internal mesh that lines your entire body from head to toe. When taking a look under the skin, it looks like an omni-directional spider web made of collagen (strong), elastin (flexible) and a liquid gel. Together, these elements provide both strength and flexibility.
This material lines every single muscle fiber, every organ and bone, and acts as a structural and communication network throughout the entire body.
Fascia is what holds YOU together.
After an injury new collagen gets laid down in a haphazard manner to help protect the injured site. Since collagen is more rigid, it can create aberrant soft tissue tightness that can limit the function of surrounding muscles and joints.
I frequently treat athletes with painful connective tissue congestion and fascial adhesions, but there are also plenty of cases with abnormal mechanics without the presence of pain. This is far more problematic because cumulative adhesion and strains can lead to big injury and dysfunction later down the road.
Just as an example, let’s say I stain my hamstring and several days later the pain goes away. I still have connective tissue trauma at the cellular level that was never addressed with proper body work. And that old trauma could easily cause future biomechanical issues in my ankle, knee, hip and low back.
Surgery is also another form of tissue trauma that can cause increased scar tissue and limit the ability for surrounding tissues to slide and glide properly.
Learn more about fascia release and self-care HERE.
Our understanding of muscle function is changing, and we now have a much better understanding of the true characteristics and function of fascia. In short, you don’t have 600 individual muscles, all with separate functions. Rather, it’s more accurate to say that your body is made up of “600 fascial pockets.”
Check out our FREE guide showing you exactly how to mobilize to squat deeper for the OHS. Click the image above to download now.
So, how do you improve fascial/tissue congestion to have more desirable body mechanics?
- Get warm – Increase hydration to the tissues by using mild heat to allow them to be more pliable. People over ice injuries all of the time, causing tissues to become hypoxic and much stiffer. You don’t want that.
- Tissue breakdown – Your best option is to find someone that is highly skilled in bodywork. They will find the areas of congestion hampering you and will properly reorganize the old, dehydrated collagen tissue. Tools like foam rollers and lacrosse balls can certainly help improve tissue hydration and reduce areas of tension, but they do not afford the exact amount of tension and compression that is necessary for permanent, lasting tissue change. Everyone’s tissues are different, so the exact amount of pressure, tension, duration and angle of force maybe be completely different from athlete to athlete. So, get to know yourself and make sure you’re not wasting your time.
- 3D movement is critical – Once the gnarly tissue restrictions are all broken down, it’s important to then move and load the body in all three planes (front/back, side/side and rotation). This will rewire the neurological system to move appropriately, but it will also mechanically load and strengthen the newly liberated tissues. Once strengthened and primed for motion, you will be free of the problem. Staying free, that’s another challenge.
How do I prevent fascial congestion?
- Stop sitting – Our muscles, tissues and organs are made to move. That’s why sitting is so bad. It can bind down your hips, low back and neck, causing possible pain and dysfunction. I see a lot of Crossfitters and athletes that sit all day long at work, then suddenly need lots of hip mobility for their snatching workout in the evening. Sorry, but a basic hip flexor stretch for 5 minutes cannot possibly combat the 10 hours of sitting at your desk. Move as much as you can, all day long.
- Move in more planes – All joints and tissues move in three planes. To maintain a healthy, functional system, it’s important to move and rotate forward and back, and side to side. There are a lot of athletes that live primarily in the sagittal plane (forward/backward). That’s bad because tissues only get stressed in the same line of force, over and over and over again. The best athletes play more than one sport – They move and train in different planes. So, instead of always lunging forward, try going to the side and rotating while you do it. You will feel exactly what I’m talking about. Fix that!
- Reduce stress – Being tense all of the time causes muscles and fascia to become tight and shortened. Yes, it’s not just your training. Behavior can also cause limitations in mobility! So, act accordingly.
- Drink more water – We are comprised of over 60% water. So it goes, you need to be properly hydrated to to have normal slide and glide in the soft-tissues. So, jerky man, start carrying around a water bottle!
- Proactive tissue work is key – Tissue maintenance should be performed frequently to maintain normal extensibility throughout the system and to decrease abnormal mechanics and injuries. Think of it like going to the dentist for cleanings. You don’t wait until you have an expensive and painful problem. Instead, you must stay on top of the issue by working a little every day towards prevention. It’s now time for all of us to view our bodies the same way. Put in the work, and you will be rewarded.
Start your daily practice
There’s nothing magical or complicated about self-care. Simply put, if you build a daily practice around these simple steps, you will soon begin to feel and perform much better.
See for yourself.
If you’re feeling tight and find yourself in the Glendale, Arizona area, come by and check out my practice Impact Physical Therapy. You can also contact me via Facebook. We’ll get you sorted out. Also, feel free to leave a question below. I’d love to help you meet your fitness goals.