By Melissa Thomas and Chad Yonkus
The spaghetti noodle softens as it is heated and water is added; it eventually becomes malleable, moist, and tender. However, if left in the strainer where the water drains and its temperature cools, it will harden again. The starch will bind the noodles together and it will take a new shape – more like a gooey, hardening glob than individual strands of slippery and soft noodles. Think of your muscle fibers as the noodles and the connective fascia that binds you together as the starch….but keep eating your lunch as you enjoy this poetic imagery!
Exercise and movement, in this example, are much like the pot of boiling water – it adds heat and moisture (via increased blood and lymphatic flow aka “nourishment”) to your tissues. Lunchtime workouts are great - however, returning your desk after warming your noodles causes them to cool and harden in a non-optimal position. This affects the health of the joints and your overall structural integrity. The fascia will bind you into this position, blood flow will be restricted, and your structure will change over time. The tissue becomes sticky, and our ability to move freely is reduced, pain is present and performance suffers.
The body is adaptive and will respond to various stimuli. When we flex our neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles for hours at a time by sitting, cycling, typing, or using our phones, the body will adapt and increased connective tissue will form to support those positions. So long, slippery noodles! Sitting in a chair, car, or airplane is much like putting your body into a brace (or a cooling strainer) which will cause the connectives, muscles, and bones (slightly, over great periods of time) to reform. Getting up for a short walk to the printer is simply not enough to break up the adhesive nature of fascia, I am sorry to tell you. Nor is utilizing a standing desk -it is an excellent start that I am an advocate of, but it is just not enough to disrupt the adhesive nature of fascia. Deep tissue massage, combined with hydration and healthy movement patterns, will add moisture to those starchy and sticky noodles – there will be space created between them and they will be fluid and slippery once again.
These are images from Dr Jean-Claude Guimberteau's Strolling Under the Skin, which takes a look at living human fascia. You can see that fascia is omnidirectional, and appears to be sticky and glue-like. The vast network of fascia is a fascinating and powerful structure that we are learning more about as research continues. If you are interested in learning more about how the fascial structures impact human movement, check out Anatomy Trains by Thomas Meyer. There are many videos on YouTube that will open your eyes to this unseen network holding us together.
Ample hydration, daily dynamic stretching, consistent mobilization routines, and regular deep tissue massage will help to disrupt the fascial connections that are binding our bodies into detrimental patterns. The use of cups during bodywork sessions is a tool I rely heavily on to help break up adhesions that have chronically formed over time. While cupping marks can be unsightly, and even somewhat tender at times, there is really no replacement for this therapy. If performed regularly and often enough, the marks will subside and tissue will become nourished again. Pain is often reduced and the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term discomfort (if any). I am an advocate for human movement as your best line of defense, and am happy to answer your questions about self-care and mobility routines, as well as the benefits of regular bodywork.
See our article on hydration and how it can help fascia here.