What Does Fascia Mean?

The term fascia describes the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body and forms a body wide tensional force transmission system. The fascia is essentially made up by collagen and elastin fibres (as well as reticulin which is immature collagen) bound together to for a variety of tissues. You see fascia as the white fibrous stuff between the actual meat of a fine steak when you try to separate it. It enwraps everything and anything in the body and it has been argued that every part of us is fascia of a different form. For example, bones are considered to be fascia that has been calcified and became thicker.

Stretching can be aimed towards different parts of the body and as with everything different aims require different actions.

It is recommended to perform stretching that involves motion to avoid isolating parts of the myo-fascial system. For fascial fitness there is a distinction between two kinds of dynamic stretching: fast and slow. Many people might remember the fast variation as it was considered as part of physical training in the past. For decades the bouncing kind of stretching was viewed as harmful in general but its benefits have been confirmed by recent research. Even though stretcihng immediately before competing can be counterproductive, it appears that in the long-run, frequent use of such dynamic stretching can positively affect the architecture of the connective tissue in that it becomes more elastic when correctly performed (Decoster et al. 2005). Before starting such a dynamic stretch the muscles and tissues must be warmed up and abrupt and jerky movements should be avoided. The acceleration and deceleration of the motion should be gradual and wave-like and the motion itself should be smooth and flowing.

To maximise the effects of dynamic stretching you can combine a preparatory counter-movement, which is a brief motion to the opposite direction of the stretch just before executing the stretching motion.

When doing slow dynamic stretching is preferable to keep long myofascial chains as the aim.

That is to avoid isolating muscles and try to find and engage with the longest possible myofascial chain. By doing this you incorporate large areas of the fascial network at once. The movements can be spiralling rotations and/or sideways or diagonal movement modifications.

Manual treatments have been found to be particularly beneficial for the facial system. One of the main ways to accomplish that is with the use of High Velocity- Low Amplitude thrusts (commonly known as the cracking techniques) as Kappler and Jones (2003) stated:

“As the barrier is engaged, increasing amounts of force are necessary and the distance decreases. The term barrier may be misleading if it is interpreted as a wall or rigid obstacle to be overcome with a push. As the joint reaches the barrier, restraints in the form of tight muscles and fascia serve to inhibit further motion. We are pulling against restraints rather than pushing against some anatomic structure.”

Also osteopathy in the cranial field has been promoting the concept of fascia as cranial manipulation techniques involve great attention to intercranial dura (meninges that anchor and surround the brain and spinal cord).

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