Sunday, September 2, 2007

Going to Harvard to Study Fascia

Being able to stroll through the courtyards and the hallowed, ivy-covered buildings of learning is only one reason I’m excited to attend the Fascia Research Congress at Harvard University October 5-6. This conference is the first ever meeting of fascia researchers from around the world! Muscles, nerves, and bones have received all the research attention; fascia, despite its importance, has been ignored until recently.

What is fascia and how does it benefit your body?
1. Fascia (also known as connective tissue) is the matrix that maintains the body’s shape.
2. It provides the basis for movement, giving muscles the ability to glide along each other.
3. Serving as a protective barrier, it envelopes each muscle, bone, organ, and blood vessel. (Did you know that varicose veins are caused by weakening of the connective tissue around veins?)
4. Cells, such as macrophages, live in fascia and these cells clean out foreign elements and assist in healing.
5. Fascia is also the conduit for cellular interchange, making it possible for nutrients and wastes to get to the correct destination.

Fascia and connective tissue are the realm of structural integrators such as myself. Manipulating fascia is what makes our work so profoundly effective. Healthy fascia is moist and slippery—like fresh gelatin. Unhealthy fascia is sticky and dense. Here are tips for you to take care of your own fascia:

§ Pay attention to your alignment. This helps in regular activities, like walking and sitting, but it’s even more effective during more strenuous activity. For example, when you stretch your hamstrings, keep your knees and toes straight to stretch the entire muscle group.
§ And when you stretch, don’t go too far. Overstretching creates tears within the tissue that gets repaired with less flexible scar tissue.
§ Stop exercise when you get fatigued so your tissues don’t get clogged with waste products.
§ Stretch after exercising when your muscles are warm and when the effect of lining up connective tissue fibers is more productive.
§ Nutrition and water are also vital to connective tissue health. A good diet with plenty of liquids is vital to all parts of your body.

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