You’re back is Achy, You’re neck may be Sore, and You Have No Idea Why…It feels like muscle pain, but unlike a tight hamstring, hip flexor or shoulder that makes you yelp when you stand up, your ache isn’t triggered by a particular movement, and you can feel it in different places at various times. The culprit could be your fascia, that relative “sheet” of tissue, made up of densely packed protein fibers, weaves throughout the entire body, and it binds and supports your muscles, bones and even your organs.
You know how your muscles feel cramped and stiff when you wake up in the morning? After a night’s sleep (or another long period of inactivity, like a car trip or plane ride), the parts of your fascia that wrap around and through your muscle fibers, which are normally stretchy and flexible, can stick together like previously chewed bubble gum. Stretching like a well rested cat in yoga, is a great way to release those sticky fibers at home.
Just today, I’ve recommended a client to work out those overused sore spots with a foam roller. You’ve probably seen people at the gym using these things, which look like pool noodles, to stretch their back, hamstrings and the notoriously tight IT band on the outside of the hips. To start, take an old pillow from home, fold it in half length wise and duct tape it into a hardened roll. It may not provide the stiff surface of a good foam roll, but you can begin slowly, and graduate to harder surfaces later. Sit or lie upon the roll, and when you get to a sore spot that feels like a bruise, pause for 15 to 20 seconds. The discomfort should melt away as the fascia softens and the muscles release. If you feel intense pain that doesn’t dissipate, stop and consider making an appointment with a physical therapist.
Don’t Let the Tissues Get “Crunchy”
If you’ve ever had a shoulder rub and heard something that sounded like crinkling plastic under your skin, that wasn’t your imagination—it was probably your parched, stiffened fascia. The collagen, protein fibers that make up fascia need to stay supple to work properly, and to slide over and under muscles and other inner-body surfaces. One way to keep the fascia hydrated is obvious: drink lots of fluids, especially water. I have had chronic back pain clients change their coffee to water on a 8x per day basis to gain relief from their fascial pain. Another easy (but easily forgettable) way is to make sure we stand up, stretch and flex regularly throughout the day to keep the fascia from locking up. Those pressure points are warning you for a reason!
If you need some foam roll instruction or relative treatment with myofascial release techniques, don’t hesitate to contact me.