Acting and living as a human being in the 21st century, I have un-acceptingly discovered that there exists a multitude of factors regarding our health, be it physical, mental, emotional; that remain not only misinformed, but completely avoided as a rule. Furthermore, as a working health professional in said deceived world, the mouth dropping list of confusion grows more and more detrimental as the days pass, thus; I have come to the realization that the health industry will unfortunately remain a mislead, misunderstood and misguided world for (most likely) as long as I am alive. And well. Which, as you can imagine, makes my job as a health practitioner that much more entertaining.
There are certain concepts that cross my path that I, depending on the circumstance, either save my pretentious, scientifically researched input for later or simply keep my mouth shut entirely. (Yes, it’s more painful than you’ll ever know.) I guess you could infer that I’ve learned over the years in my practice as a Holistic Health Practitioner to choose my battles so to speak.
For instance, when I’m mixing it up in a social setting and a twenty something girl explains to her bff that she avoids strawberries because they’re like totally high in caloric intake, I typically keep my distance. Or if the bff then retaliates justifying that she will most likely stop eating strawberries now but definitely keep taking birth control because her Dr. claims the contraceptive prevents breast cancer, I tend to, yet again, control my urge to bark. I even generally keep my pie hole clamped when the third girlfriend describes her healthy lifestyle of salad munching for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, it’s during those noteworthy, compelling moments when the fourth socialite joins the riveting conversation stating that she recently embarked on a new journey towards health that doesn’t concern strawberries, birth control OR salads but rather weight loss specific products endorsed by professional athletes and is THRILLED to now have a healthy poop schedule (healthy representing the key word here) of producing 2 bowel movements/week, that I just can’t help but intervene.
Now as much as I thoroughly enjoy discussions on poop (it’s my favorite topic on health other than period cycles), I’ll save the explanation of why 2 bowel movements/week does not equate to health for another social setting and another legendary conversation. That being said, I’d like to focus on an entirely different misrepresented health concept for now. A concept that encompasses my practice on a daily basis. A concept prominent in chronic pain therapy and rehabilitation. A concept that lingers in the arena of avoidance for most health care professionals today.
I’d like to talk about fascia.
Fascia permeates the entire body as a type of connective tissue that envelops every muscle, nerve, organ, and bone. The layers of the tissue both separate these structures from one another and bind them together. Fascia, a truly universal tissue, unites all anatomical structures and acts as the only substance that touches every organ, nerve, joint, and blood vessel. It is directly affected by movement, stretching, nutrition and hydration, or consequently, a lack there of. Thus, you could conclude that the fascia itself determines the health and age of the body.
Fascia, an extremely flexible tissue, can withstand an incredible amount of pulling or compression without being torn apart or deteriorated, which makes it a useful structural component of our body. For example, fascia possesses the functional capability to enable a contracting muscle to slide past the muscle next to it. However, said functionality is only at it’s best with that of healthy fascia.
Any form of manipulation manufactures the fascia more gelatinous, thus enhancing the connective tissue’s mobility. The mobility of fascia takes on many different jobs, as it mimics a structural device for the body. Mobile fascia allows for optimal posture, maintains the placement of organs, prevents muscle injury, and tethers the muscle tendons to bone, thus granting the muscles the mechanical stability they need in order to contract forcefully. Therefore, one could hypothesize that the fascia plays a major, if not leading, role in treating and preventing injury and/or pain, power and strength, and overall physiological health.
Contrary, appropriate acknowledgment of the fascia unfortunately remains mostly forgone by pain care specialists today, and accurately treating the fascia is an art form so little known that it exists in uncharted territory. Rather, therapists of our generation dealing with injured athletes, low back issues, joint restrictions, and various chronic pain cases prescribe a list of stretches focusing primarily on the muscle. For instance, prop your leg up, touch your toes, pull your foot to your butt, and pull this arm over this body. The problem lies in the stretches’ inability to effectively manipulate the fascia. You know, the eminent component that allows the muscle to actually do its thing.
The best example I give to my patients is this: take a rubber band ball. Now try to release the rubber bands within the ball. It’s not functionally possible due to the other rubber bands binding all rubber bands in place. Release the rubber bands doing the binding and voila! The others follow suite. In other words, you can stretch the muscle itself until you’re blue in the face, but you won’t get very far without accurately affecting the fascia first.
Surgery is another popular remedy of the 21st century. Low back pain? Easy. Let’s just invasively remove the problem from the equation. Done. Now, while it’s not to say that surgery is not undeniably warranted (and necessary) in specific circumstances, I whole-heartedly stress merely that surgery represent the last resort for chronic, reoccurring pain. I realize things are easy here in the 21st century, but let’s take that for what it’s worth.
Surgery, in and of itself, acts as an injury to the body by creating scar tissue. Scars naturally contract toward their own center, pulling the surrounding tissues with them. If said tissues happen to involve a nerve or joint, the end result manifests as pain and restricted movement. Which would appear to leave you back at home base. Lending oneself to, once again, release fascial tension and restraint. Believe it or not, spinal decompression can be achieved through detailed, extensive and efficient fascial releasing techniques, be it via manual therapy and/or physical work.
Seeing as we are in a state of constant flux, even down to the individual cells in our muscles, regardless of our differing day-to-day habits, a condition that may in fact seem permanent can always improve. If not 100% cured. You were not born with low back pain. And the body has an innate intelligence that longs to return to that state. All it ever needed was a little encouragement.
It is to my belief that we (all of us here in the 21st century) have managed to neglect nature’s profound intelligence entirely and our body’s ability to communicate, rejuvenate and work. We do not exist as another day in age machine begging to be manipulated by technology. We are an extremely detailed, ingenious organism with a cellular makeup so complex that science will study it forever. And holding us all together is fascia.