What is Fascia:
Fascia is a continuous web of connective tissue (collagen and elastin) formed in bands that wraps around all muscles and other internal parts of the body from head to toe and connects everything all together. During movement it acts to reduce friction and allows the muscles, nerves, and organs to move freely alongside, over or under other structures. It can be found immediately beneath the skin, around muscles, groups of muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, organs, and cells. Fascia is everywhere, envelopes and supports structures. Fascia is like a snug fitting fabric encasing our bodies and has sometimes been described as the organ of form. Without the interconnecting web of fascia in our bodies we would not be able to stand, walk or move very well at all.
How it works:
Fascia like other soft tissues has variable elasticity that allow it to withstand deformation when forces and pressure are applied, allowing it to recover or return to its starting shape and size. Fascia responds to gravity, load, compression, and force, and has an elastic response in which a degree of slack can be taken up. Over time, if loading persists in a slow and sustained manner, fascia creep develops, which is a slow, delayed yet continuous deformation within the fascia web.
At this point, an actual volume change occurs in the collagen matrix as liquid is forced from the tissue and tissue becomes less hydrated. This leads to increased friction between fascia and muscle layers and other mobile structures. When loading or forces of gravity ceases, fascia cannot return to its original shape because it is too dehydrated and does not have elastic recoil. Chronic loading for any length of time (poor posture / injury) causes tissues to lengthen or shorten that will distort until reaching a point of imbalance and chronic deformation results. We begin to see postural transformations such as forward head, rounded shoulders, stooped posture and or movement pattern dysfunction related to injury.
In the context of Rolfing SI, the Ten Series allows for the time needed for tissue to return to normal via elastic recoil, hydration of tissue and reduced pain. Signaling in the nervous system (muscle memory) helps to maintain these changes over long periods of time and the body adapts to an ease in movement with less pain and often more energy.
Pilates also facilitates this process as the choreography and the spring loaded apparatus tension flosses muscle layers over one another during movements and influences the fiber direction of collagen within the fascia system. This further helps to free restrictions in muscle and tissue in an active and dynamic way. Pilates will improve range of motion (ROM), create stability in joints and muscle, improve movement patterns, enhance integration of Rolfing sessions, and improve strength.
Fascia also supports sensory nerve tissue that tells us about our interaction within our environment especially as it relates to movement and pain. Restrictions and stiffness in fascial layers are often associated with pain and restricted movement and may become adhered or fibrotic. This can lead to painful-guarded movement patterns and, over time, can begin to influence movements in seemingly unrelated parts of the body. In addition to supporting nerve tissues it also supports blood, lymphatic vessels, interstitial fluid, muscles, and organs.
A healthy fascia system can communicate with neighboring structures by allowing for kinetic energy to flow throughout without getting “stuck”. It lubricates tissue and is important in eliminating muscle byproduct, improves healing, helps reduce stiffness and pain. It allows for elasticity and recoil of tissue important in motor coordination and sustained posture and transitional movement. This is different then flexibility as it allows for muscle and tissue to return to its original length after being stretched or lengthened.