May 24, 2011

Fascial Tightness and Injuries

By: Diana M Palmer, MS, ATC, EMT

Many of us have seen foam rollers being used by personal trainers and clients.  Why are they being used? Can it benefit you?

Foam rolls are incorporated into work outs to allow active individuals to perform self myofascial release, or SMR.  These have become more and more popular in the last five years as we learn more about fascia.

Why is it important to release, or unwind, fascia?  Fascia is an amazingly complex and 3-dimensional tissue. Not only does it surround muscles, but it actually composes a dynamic web of strong fibers that wind between cells connecting and impacting far-distant body parts.  For example, a tight, or bound fascial causing pain in the ankle can affect the knee, hip, low back, and wind it’s way up to the shoulder.  

How do you know if you have tight fascia?  For many years fascial pain went undiagnosed and patients were treated for chronic muscle strains, joint pain, sprains, and re-occurring injuries that returned despite rest/rehab.  Trauma, repetitive movements (golf, tennis, computer work) and even prolonged positional postures (i.e. sitting or standing for hours) can be possible causes of fascial binding patterns.  Flexibility, mobility, and strength can all be affected.

If stretching and massage only temporarily alleviate a tightness or pain, or possibly make the pain increase, if you feel “restricted” and cannot perform full movement at a joint, experience low grade chronic pain syndromes (including headaches, TMJ, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain) it may be time to research fascial pain and injuries with a health care professional. There are many health care practitioners trained to evaluate and treat fascial pain.  Physical therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, certified athletic trainers, and massage therapists can help guide you in your evaluation.  There are many causes of chronic pain and repetitive injuries, so I strongly recommend meeting with a trained individual before beginning your own program.

Anatomy Trains, the Graston Technique website, and SMR (self myofascial release) are available on the web and are great resources.  These sights highlight fascia’s role in the body, how to prevent injuries, and how to treat injuries when they do occur.

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