I’m pleased to report that I’ve just returned from a much-needed tropical getaway. Sun, surf, humidity, and the expansive beauty of the Atlantic Ocean – what a treat! Throw in a few visits with family & old friends, and you have a recipe for a super enjoyable & rejuvenating vacation.
The trip involved a 17-hour travel day going, and a 12-hour travel day returning, as well as many more hours of driving between destinations. So lots of sitting. Although I did quite a bit of walking & some daily yoga, it wasn’t enough to counter all the immobility and keep my fascia supple and happy. As a result, I often found it necessary to do additional stretches at night to get out of pain and enable sleep.
If you’re unsure your fascia has ever been unhappy, an article from Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that a painful back or neck could be due to tight fascia rather than muscles or joints. Too much sitting or other limited movement day after day can cause fascia to thicken and become sticky. When it dries up and tightens around muscles, it can limit mobility and cause knots to develop. If restoring elasticity to the tissue helps you feel better, the article goes on to say, the problem can be attributed to fascia.
In a past post, I mentioned a video clip by Dr. Gil Hedley, Board President of the Institute for Anatomical Research. Working with a cadaver, he shares The Fuzz Speech, demonstrating how fascia creates a fuzzy connection to muscles as we sleep (or are otherwise inactive.) Stretching each day dissolves the fuzz, he says. To forgo stretching can result in thicker fuzz and result in stiffness and pain. The importance of regular stretching cannot be overstated.
Jaap van der Wal, MD, retired associate professor of Anatomy and Embryology at the University of Maastricht, Holland, refers to fascia as the integrating matrix of the body. Further, he says the architecture of the connective tissue, including structures such as fasciae, sheaths and membranes, is more important for understanding functional meaning than is more traditional anatomy. A pretty strong endorsement for learning to care for your fascia, wouldn’t you say?
A while back, I found a website called The Fascia Guide that goes into detail on all kinds of info about fascia, as well as research articles and a Q&A page with plenty of practical info. From this source, you can glean facts like fascia is the only tissue that has contact with all other tissues in the body and it contains collagen-producing fibroblasts in abundance. If you’d like to learn more about this fascinating connective network, I encourage you to spend a few minutes on the site. You might be amazed!
I’ve also discovered a website called Pilates Tonic that shares free, short clips of really nice stretches targeting specific areas. I find that the outside of my thighs (the IT bands) and my lower back need the most attention when I’m out of my regular routine. Yoga, varied exercises, cupping therapy, massage, and foam rolling can also help keep connective tissue pliable.
Even with fascial issues, my little winter escape was a delight. The trip taught me that carving out sufficient time for various exercises between long periods of inactivity is crucial for staying out of pain, an especially desirable pursuit during vacation! Can I get a do-over??
Blessings for Pain-Free Holidays,
The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.