Chronic pain (especially in the low back, shoulders and neck), limited range of movement and flexibility, pain from old injuries or surgical sites, anxiety from recent and/or long ago traumatic events... all of these point to an unfitness in your Fascia. Holistic therapies can help!
What is Fascia
Fascia is a spider web-like, loose connective tissue found throughout the body, that wraps around muscles, joints, organs and the body as a whole. Fascia also connects all parts of the body. It has varying consistency depending on where it is located. When your Fascia is open, hydrated and loose it facilitates movement, allows good muscle function and allows all cells to communicate and function at their best. Your Fascia fitness is optimal!
When Fascia becomes congested, dehydrated and tough it causes us to lose our flexibility, limits movement and often causes pain. Physical, psychological and environmental stressors can all cause Fascia to become "stuck". Physical stress can include poor posture, lack of exercise and movement, accident, surgery... Emotional stress, often associated with muscle tension, can cause Fascia to thicken and stick. It can build up over years, and Fascia can remain tight and hard even when muscle fibres have relaxed.
It always makes me smile a little when I'm a few movements into a Massage Therapy session and I hear "You can go deeper" from the client, face down on the table. Yes, I can go deeper, but are your muscles at a point where they are ready for that? Is your Fascia ready?
Movements are lighter at the beginning of a Massage Therapy session for a few reasons. Firstly, with my hands I'm feeling for temperature changes in the areas that I'm treating, usually checking for heated areas that may be signaling inflammation. If I start getting deep into the tissues right away, increasing circulation, I'm not going to be able to check for inflammation as easily.
Clients will find their Massage Therapy session more beneficial if muscles are "calm" and part of the slower, lighter movements is to encourage the nervous system to relax and the muscles to open, allowing my hands to move in more deeply. Muscles are more likely to be "on guard" if I am trying to dig deep right from the start, and that can cause them to spasm. If you are hurting and clenching because the Massage is too deep or feels uncomfortable I will cause more damage than good. Massage Therapy does not have to be deep or painful in order to be effective.
The Hips are amazing ball joints created through the union of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia of the upper leg and pelvis. A major weight bearing joint for the body, the Hip allows for great range of motion for our legs, when we look after it.
Probably the hip issues that I find clients dealing with the most are a result of not enough stretching of thigh, gluteal and low back muscles. Sitting at a desk day after day, standing for long periods, driving... can all contribute to contraction and tightness of the muscles surrounding the Hips. Massage Therapy and stretching can help to loosen and maintain flexiblity through the Hips and allow for easy, painless, movement.
An important tip to remember: Bones don’t move the body, Muscles move the bones that move the body. This is particularly noticeable in Hip movements.
When a muscle is overworked, tight and restricted without being given adequate rest, stretching and nutrition, or is injured, it will begin to limit the movements of our joints or cause pain in those movements. Swelling, inflammation, spasm, fatigue, injury… all can lead to muscles that just will not work without pain or only work within a limited range of motion. As the condition becomes worse so does the pain, while range of motion becomes more and more limited. While true for all joints, as a Massage Therapist I see this happen more commonly in the shoulder and the Hip.
The Hips Cradle Emotion
Our Hips are also said to cradle and hold emotions. Some yoga instructors refer to the pelvis and hips as the "junk drawer of emotions" for the body. When stressed or feeling threatened our "fight or flight" response may have us jumping into action. Or if receiving bad news we curl forward towards the fetal position. Our body has an instinctual reflex to clench the deep muscles and sometimes doesn't let go even after trauma or emotional experiences are over.
You may have noticed when you perform deep stretches or when having your Hips massaged that emotions well up unexpectedly. This is normal. On the otherside, when the muscles have loosened, you will often feel lighter and more relaxed.
Stretching and Massage Therapy are really great ways to ensure your Hips stay healthy, flexible, relaxed, and move easily and without pain.
Follow along on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for Hip care tips throughout the month of March!