To the Future! Congratulations! You have survived another year. Out with 2019 and in with 2020! As you look forward to the future, there are things you would like to do. It might be to travel to Greece and visit the Panthoen, go hiking at Yosemite, run a local 5k race, or simply walk your dog every day to the dog park. Some of these plans are for this coming new year, and others might be a few years further away. But there is a hidden assumption in all of these, and its that your body will physically be able to support these goals. Ever try to walk with foot pain? Ever try to focus on your job with a migraine? Ever try to ride a car with back pain? Each of these situations is challenging and impactful to your life and your goals. Per a 2016 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, 20% of Americans are in chronic pain. Another 10% of in so much pain that it impacts their occupation. And we are only addressing short term goals. What will life physically look for you 10, 20, and 30 years from now? Will you be active? Will you be hiking, running, going to the gym? Or will you be at home with pains wanting to do things but your body unable?
These problems beg two questions: If I’m currently in this situation, how do you get out of it? And if I’m not in this situation, is there anything that you can do to prevent being in this situation at all? Fortunately, due to a better understanding of how the body handles tension, options are available.
A New Anatomical Understanding
Most people know about muscle, tendons, ligaments, and bones. But there is tissue called fascia that has been getting more attention from the health services. Though research is still being conducted on this tissue, its importance in a person’s physical health is well known in the manual therapy world. Fascia is fibrous collagenous tissue that covers every muscle fiber, tendon, ligament, and bone throughout your body.
It is what is responsible for the shape of your body and for transferring forces through-out your body. Think of it as a very strong (up to 2,000 lbs of tensile strength per square inch) 3-dimensional bodysuit. It is made up of 70% water and is responsible for 20% of your weight, making it the largest organ in your body.
Why is this tissue so crucial to physical health? A healthy fascia is fluid and balanced. It needs to be fluid so that it can lubricate muscles moving next to each other. It also needs to be balanced so that tension is distributed evenly throughout the body. If the fascia is unbalanced, one side might do more work than the other side. If one side does more than the other side, muscles get fatigued, and joints find themselves out of position. Joints that are out of position don’t work effectively, or worse, start to incur damage.
Postural Objective We have a good idea of what a balanced body looks like. Why? It has to do with physics. Physics deals with vectors of forces, which are perfectly straight lines of force that have magnitude and direction. Well, your body is under a constant force most of the time. Its called gravity. This force is pulling your body straight into the middle of the earth. When you draw a straight from the middle of the earth through your body, the most effective position for your body to be is to have all joints stacked straight on top of each other, so head directly above the shoulder, shoulder directly above the hip, hip directly above the knee, and knee directly above the ankles. This allows you to move with the most ease, and it will enable you to interact with the world around you with the least amount of effort. Any deviation from this postural object requires you to exert more energy than if you were aligned.
If we know what a posturally balanced body looks like, we can then detect imbalances in the fascia by noticing imbalances in posture. If you take a balanced body with balanced fascia and apply an imbalanced force to it, it will show up in as an imbalance in the posture. We will call this force fascia stress. Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. Fascia stress comes in several forms: physical trauma, illness, poor posture, repetitive motion, mental stress, and emotional trauma. From scoliosis to depression, from a car accident to daily computer work, there are external and internal forces that will create an imbalance in your posture. Once posture is imbalanced, adhesions are created, muscles don’t work as well, pain is felt, and performance
The body loves to heal itself, so given the chance, it will do everything it can to correct itself. It’s you and your health professional’s job to help your body do this in every way possible way.
Physically, movement is both good for the body and the soul. Just taking a walk can remind you of how good things are. The older and wiser I get, the more I understand how much my happiness depends on my attitude towards the things that are happening around me. And motion is how you keep your fascia lubricated. My yoga teacher inspired us to have “juicy spines.” This requires movement, be it walking the dog or going to the gym.
There are times, however, when we need help from a health professional. I find that a fascia bodyworker that is trained on restoring posture is worth their weight in gold. They can get us out of bad situations and transition us to having a more functional body.
Your physical health is a very important aspect of your life. It’s easy to assume that it will always be there to support the things you do. Unfortunately, everyday stressors can have a negative impact on your health. Fortunately, there are ways to reverse and even prevent some of the stress that your body deals with. New anatomical understanding provides you with the ability to be proactive. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Look into local resources to see how to improve your posture and physical health.