Fascia – What is it?

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Every human on the planet should know about their fascia. You know, that little manual we get at birth that explains everything about our Earth Suit (body) and how it works. Oh, you didn’t get that? Neither did I! But wouldn’t it be great if we learned some basics about our bodies as kids!? I’m willing to bet that we would be a lot better at taking care of ourselves as a whole if we were taught at a young age how amazing our bodies are.

As a bodyworker, fascia is something I touch and work with every day in the office. In fact, you’re moving your fascia every day as well. Fascia is so important, and in this article you’ll understand why. It really is the key to understanding tension and pain patterns. So what is fascia?  Let’s dive right in and start with the definition.

“If you could make your whole body disappear except for the fascia you would see a remarkable web of connective tissue that looks exactly like you!”


Fascia (Fa-Sha): A thin sheath of fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle or other organ.

To visualize fascia think about a raw chicken (or maybe an orange if you’re vegan). You know that thin membrane-y white stuff that surrounds all the meat? That’s fascia. Fascia runs throughout our entire body in a continuous fashion. It’s truly amazing. It holds muscle fibers together, attaches muscles to bones and the muscle layers to each other. It also holds our organs in place, including our skin. Fascia alone makes up about 6.5% of our total body volume If you could make your whole body disappear except for the fascia you would see a remarkable web of connective tissue that looks exactly like you!

fascia orangeThink of fascia as that white membrane around every bundle of orange fibers.

Why is fascia important?

It’s a very beautiful thing when the fascia of your body is unrestricted and free to move about. When your fascia is well lubricated and healthy, your muscles and organs function optimally. However, sometimes fascia gets “stuck” and creates adhesions to itself and the muscle tissue. This is what’s known as a “knot.” Fascial adhesions can occur due to the body’s response to an injury, repetitive stress, postural and movement habits. Fascia holds six times as many sensory neurons as any other tissue in your body (except skin). When fascia gets restricted, we know it, because those sensory neurons fire off pain signals to our brain.

Feel that crunch in your shoulders? That’s fascia getting all bound up and unhappy. Stretching, hydration, movement, good nutrition, and massage are all essential ways to keep our fascia healthy and happy.

Deep Tissue and Myofascial Release are massage techniques that engage the fascia to get it to release. This is done with slow, deep movements with very little oil on the skin. The more oil your massage therapist uses, the more superficial the massage will be, meaning that the hands will glide over the skin but not reach the deeper layers of muscle.

As a bodyworker, I know that engagement with the client’s fascia is important. In fact, I’m often thinking more about fascia than I am about muscles when I’m working with a client. It really makes a big difference in the feeling and outcome of a massage when a therapist knows how to engage fascia.

Cupping is a powerful tool that you can receive from a qualified practitioner, or learn to do some basic self care with cups on your own. Cupping from a bodywork perspective, helps to mobilize the fascia, increase circulation. This helps reduce pain and increases mobility.

Want to watch a fascinating video all about fascia? Warning: There are dead bodies (cadavers), so if that makes you squeamish, then you’ve been warned. Gil Hedly breaks down the importance of movement in the body, and how to beat “the fuzz.”

Now stand up, roll your neck and shoulders around, and keep your fascia loose! This has been a very brief overview of fascia, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I look forward to talking more about fascia in future articles.

By Brenna Moore

Licensed Massage Therapist, Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

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