I recently took a workshop to learn how to release the connective tissue around internal organs. The duodenum* was one of the organs we studied. I had never heard of a doo-ah-de-what before. This organ is between the stomach and small intestine and is a major source of my own digestive problems.
Many people are unaware they have fascia, even though it is a source of their aches and pains. We know about muscles, bones, organs and nerves, but aren’t taught about the tissue that holds it all together. As a client you may already know about fascia, but it never hurts to get a fascia-nating refresher.
Fascia wraps every muscle, bone, organ, nerve, and blood vessel and holds the body together. It doesn't just wrap around muscles, but also wraps the fibers within the muscle. It creates a three-dimensional web of support that facilitates — or inhibits — your ability to function and move.
Also called connective tissue, fascia is comprised of a gel-like substance that suspends fibers and cells. Healthy fascia is slippery, like freshly made Jello® so muscles and organs can glide easily, The gel of unhealthy fascia is dense and sticky, like Jello® that’s been in the fridge for a month or even Elmer’s Glue®. To keep the glide in your gel, move fluidly throughout your body every day, especially after being still or tense.
Collagen and elastin fibers give fascia its shape and structure. The fibers line up based on lines of force in the body. Repetitive motion, overuse, and injury cause the fibers to become disorganized, which prevents smooth movement. If your hamstrings are tight, it might not be because they are over-contracted. It might be because they are encased in fibers that line up at cross purposes with the direction the muscle needs to move.
Most people think the answer is to stretch, but that runs the risk of creating micro-tears in the tissue, which get repaired with even less organized scar tissue. If you stretch and it burns, you are creating micro-tears. The best time to stretch is after activities like running, gardening, and biking. The fibers align more easily when muscles are warm. Or participate in activities that stretch while the muscles are being contracted, as in yoga or some martial arts.
The condition of your fascia is important, because it communicates between and coordinates muscular actions. You have more efficiency and ease of motion when the gel is healthy and fibers aligned. By the way, Hellerwork Structural Integration is helpful on both accounts.
*Technically, the duodenum is the first part of the small intestine, which is why I didn’t know it by name. We considered it separately from the small intestine, because it is in a different compartment