Over the past decade, modern science has started to recognize a simple yet profound body tissue.
For thousands of years, healing traditions have used this tissue to help people with pain. It is now being recognized by modern science as well (it takes us a while to catch up sometimes, doesn’t it?!)
It was once thought to be a simple “filler” (like white Styrofoam peanuts) in the body but is a highly intelligent, supportive and an adaptive system. It is a web-like structure that covers every single cell in your body (+-10 Trillion of them).
It has a sixth sense as it automatically changes your posture. It has millions of nerve endings running through it.
This tissue creates an intricate information highway more complex than anything in existence today.
It is called Fascia.
Walking through water without getting wet.
“They” (the incredibly smart people, stashed away in sun-deprived labs, trying to unravel the great mysteries of life) have found that this super tissue controls the shape and function of the body. And like all living things, it needs water to work well.
A smooth, graceful and well-coordinated body is an indication of well-hydrated fascia. Whereas heavy, jerky and robot-like movements are an indication of dried out and thirsty fascia.
Imagine trying to walk across a floor filled with marbles, you would slip and slide all over the place.
Water has the same effect in the fascia; it creates little water molecules that allow the tissue fibers to glide gracefully, majestically and freely over each other.
When the water is squeezed out, the fascia sticks together. It dries out like sundried tomatoes. This aggravates the nerves and makes moving more difficult.
The net result:
Cracking the pain-free code
Any repetitive movement will slowly dehydrate your fascia. While drinking a good quality and pure water helps, it will not re-hydrate your fascia.
Your fascia needs to move for it to absorb the water. Sometimes, when your fascia is very dry ( imagine a very hard,
brittle and dry sponge) it might need a little more help to re-absorb the water.
While massage is great for muscles, it is not as effective when it comes to cracking open the fascia.
There are many different techniques for re-hydrating fascia. Some require manual manipulation while others are more movement based. I have found a combination of the two works best.
A pretty cool self-release method I came across is called the M.E.L.T method. Sue Hitzmann, the founder, uses a soft foam roller and movement to help release and re-hydrate the fascia.
The softness is important because if the rolling experience is too painful it can actually have the opposite effect. It can aggravate the nerves and cause further dehydration of the fascia.
Good habits can be bad for you
Any repetitive motion dehydrates fascia. That means that any good habits can also create pain. To keep your good habits and your fascia hydrated it is important to mix things up a bit. Don’t get stuck in the same routines and patterns for long periods of time.
Three things you can do NOW without leaving your seat
As most of us spend a lot of time sitting, here three simple techniques to hydrate your fascia.
- Breathe fully and deeply: This moves the deep layers of the fascia that connect your ribs, diaphragm and organs. If the deeper layers are tight and dry, they can affect how your organs work.
Take a slow, deep breath in.
Breathing from the bottom of your belly to the top of your chest.Keep your whole body relaxed. Watch for any tension in your neck and shoulders. Breathe from the diaphragm.
- Don’t sit for longer than 20 minutes at a time. This advice is from Dr Joan Vernikos, a former director of NASA’s life science division. In her book she says “Sitting kills and moving heals”.
Dr Vernikos talks about the benefits of gravity and how the weightlessness of space ages astronauts. She also says that sitting causes a lot of health problems. From what we now know about fascia, it is easy to understand why. Standing up every 20 minutes or so can stop the dehydration effect. It improves circulation and will keep your back younger, healthier and moving better for longer.
- Move your whole body: It doesn’t matter where or how, sitting or standing. Just move it slowly, gently and intentionally in all different directions.
A few ideas:
- Belly Pumping:Push your belly button out as far as you can. Then pull it all the way back in. This creates a pumping motion. Try coordinating your breathing with the movement of your belly. Breathing in as you push the belly out and breathing out as you pull it in. (Don’t force the breath out as it might make you dizzy.)
- Shoulder Shuffle: Move your right shoulder forward while you move you left shoulder back as if you’re dancing.
- Pelvic Rocking: Roll your pelvis back into a slouch as you exhale. Then inhale and rock forward on your pelvis as you open your chest and sit upright. Repeat. Warning: People with disc issues must be cautious and move very slowly and comfortably. If you have any pain. Please Stop.
Never force your body into any position. Use the 80/20 movement principle. Move 80% range with 20% effort.
You are not trying to stretch.
You are trying to tighten and loosen each muscle to gently reabsorb more fluid. Try move slow and smooth rather than fast and rigid. Think of waves moving in and out from the beach. This will keep your fascia healthy, hydrated and coordinated 24/7.
The way you sit, stand and move plays a huge role in how hydrated your fascia is.
Only you have the power to make a difference in your pain. Nobody else can fix your pain.No matter how amazing or skilled a practitioner is. They can’t fix you. I spent many frustrating years learning this.
It is your body (YOU) alone that regenerates and repairs itself.
All you need to do is give your body the time, energy and nutrients it needs. Then step aside and let it do what it is designed to do.
The best thing is to start somewhere, anywhere. Start small. Try something new.
If it works great. If not, try something else. Slowly introduce new habits and new ways of doing.
Every little bit counts.