Firstly what is the Myofascia?
New research shows that in fact it’s not the Musculo-skeletal system as we have traditionally thought that supports us. What’s most important is the health of your connective tissue system, your Myofascia, because it is the support system all the other systems of your body rely on for stability, support and hydration. And combined with a healthy nervous system a healthy Myofascial system is what is going to maintain you in good health for life.
Myofascia is the dense, tough tissue which surrounds and covers all of your muscles and bones. This outer fascial covering is very strong and very flexible. It actually has a tensile strength of over 2000 pounds. At the microscopic level myofascia resembles a spider web or fairy floss. It is very flexible when healthy and is often called the Myofascial Web which runs from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes. It is continuous, has no beginning or end and can be found almost everywhere in your body. It is like a continuous weave of material and, like a pulled thread, damage to one area of Myofascia can effect other quite distant areas in your body.
Watch this fascinating Up Close Video Of the Fascia:
In it’s healthy state your fascia is relaxed and soft and has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. When you experience physical trauma or inflammation your fascia loses its pliability. It can become tight, restricted and a source of tension throughout the rest of the body. Healthy Myofascia helps to maintain good posture, range of motion and flexibility. It also gives your body strength and helps you deal with stress and injuries.
Because our postural habits over a lifetime of misuse create many areas of tightness through the Myofascial Meridians I have found integrating an understanding of the Myofascia and it’s role in supporting our structure to to be highly effective in both preventing and treating chronic pain.
What is Myofascial Fitness?
We know our alignment and posture contribute to overall health and our ability to avoid injury. Good posture will place a lot less strain on your spine when you engage in sports and daily activities like lifting little ones, carrying shopping, driving your car! On the other hand poor posture decreases your joint flexibility and causes discomfort when you move. Your poor postural habits are most likely a big contributor to your back pain and can lead to increased risk of injury. And your Myofascial fitness is the key to supporting your whole structure, all your body’s systems and keeping your body hydrated and pain-free.
In this short video Tom Myers explains what happens to our Fascia as we age:
Your body is moulded by what you do
When we sit at a computer, in front of a TV screen, in a car, for too long with our head forward the result is a shortening of the Myofascia or connective tissue along the front of your body. You will also experience your upper back and neck becoming strained due to supporting the weight of your head in a dysfunctional way. It then becomes more difficult to “straighten up”. And the effect doesn’t stop there, you will probably throw your pelvis forward as a counter balance and cause a change in the lumbar curve resulting in disc compression. Sitting with the spine in a flexed or forward position for long periods will inevitably cause stiffness and poor movement patterns.
Sitting at your desk for long periods increases pressure on your lower back and results in poor circulation to the muscles, causing back spasms and all too often disc problems. All this sitting, driving and a generally sedentary lifestyle puts an enormous load on the discs in your lower back and eventually we find that the muscles that are designed to support us in an upright position have weakened.
We’ll often compensate for these muscular weaknesses by locking the knee joints and using our thighs to brace us into a standing position while the buttocks and lower back muscles go virtually unused. A head forward posture rounds your upper back and places enormous stresses on the Cervical and Lumbar areas of your spine. We go from work to exercise class unconsciously bringing the poor movement patterns that have become ingrained within us.
What can I do?
As Tom Myers explains in the video above there are some things you can do to optimise your Myofascial health.
- Hydration – Water, stretching, movement, massage, foam rolling
- Nutrients – particularly Collagen & Vitamin C
- Good Movement Habits – Your posture & how you move is important (as well as not sitting for too long!)
Rest? Watch the video to find out how rest can help your fascial system : )
Lai Morris is a Yoga Instructor & Bodyworker who is on a mission to empower back pain sufferers to re-educate their body to be balanced and pain free. She is equally passionate about promoting health and wellbeing through Myofascial Therapies. She is an experienced therapist and works with small groups and individuals educating people on how to change their movement patterns and improve their Myofascial fitness.