Throughout life, your body experiences a wide array of traumas and shocks, big and small. The big traumas are often the ones that we remember most - a fall of a bike or a road traffic accident for example. The smaller ones that occur on a daily basis are often not thought of as being traumas at all - twinging the back when picking up a backpack or your knee giving way when stepping off a pavement.
Each time a trauma occurs, your body automatically compensates to avoid pain, absorb the force of impact or work around a newly established movement limitation. It is a master at finding the path of least resistance. Over several weeks, months and years you begin to implement these compensation into your overall sequencing of movement i.e the way you walk, lift, bend, run and carry objects. The tricky thing is that you may not even notice this change in movement pattern aka your 'new normal'.
What is this ingenious system that keeps us from experiencing pain every time we move inefficiently? (which is most of the time). What does it look like? and how does it work? Is it a fool-proof system or does it require on-going maintenance and care? In this short article we will attempt to address these questions in a few simple paragraphs.
Fascia : The key compensatory mechanism
Fascia is a seamless web of connective tissue that surrounds every tissue in the body - every organ, every tendon, every ligament, every nerve, every blood vessel, every muscle and every muscle cell. Think of it as being like a spider web that weaves throughout the entire body, helping to compartmentalize and give form to each and every region.
To better understand the over arching functions of fascia, it is worth discussing the Fascia & Tensegrity model.
An effective analogy to use when trying to understand this model and how fascia works is to visualize a spider's web. When you pull on one side of the web, it distorts the other side. Not only this, it also changes the shape of the web all along the line of tension. Similarly, when a trauma or restriction occurs in one area of fascia, it has a ripple effect along the line of tension to other areas of the body.
This is both good and bad. The positive aspect of this is that it gives the body an ingenious way of dissipating forces throughout the entire complex. This aides in the 'compensatory effect' in response to trauma, saving you from feeling pain every time you take a step on concrete. On the flip side, if tightness begins to develop in one area then it is easily transmitted to other areas of the body, predisposing it to future injury.
Fascia requires constant attention if it is to maintain its vitality. This attention comes in the form of movement. A lack of movement causes the fascia to solidify in certain areas, as mentioned above this has a knock on effect to all other areas of the body. It is no wonder therefore that when we wake up it is not uncommon to feel as stiff as a board. This is because every night when you go to sleep, your body enters a state of deep paralysis.
Over the course of a night and due to a total lack of movement your fascia will become 'fuzzy'. This fuzz begins to line the surfaces of the fascia and will over time solidify into a hard mass, causing it to lose its ability to dissipate forces throughout the body. This is why in the morning you feel stiff as soon as you get out of bed, your body has literally become glued together by a thick fuzz. Over the course of several weeks and months this will begin to present as a feeling of tightness, a dull ache and eventually an injury. The single most effective way of combating this problem is to 'de-fuzz' every morning. The key difference between someone that ages well and moves freely throughout life and someone that has dysfunctional and painful joints is the ability to de-fuzz the fascia in an efficient manner.
This requires you to be trained how to move correctly for your body shape, size and past experience. At BODY we specialise in providing the highest standard of movement sequence training (clinical Pilates) and hands-on treatment (Osteopathy). In the next article we will discuss how we combine these two practices to provide solutions for your physical well-being.