Fascia Stretching Explained: 5 Stretches, 10 Best Practices

Medically Reviewed By Amy Elizabeth Wolkin, PT, DPT, MBA

Several exercises and lifestyle practices can help improve your mobility, flexibility, and the length and tension of your fascia. Fascia is a system of tissue that holds different parts of your body together, such as the musculoskeletal system. It is essential for proper bodily function, including your ability to sit, jump, walk, or run.

Keep reading to learn how to stretch your fascia and what can cause fascial tightness. The article discusses exercises that target different areas of the body, including the hips, low back, and plantar fascia in the heel of the foot.

How to stretch your fascia

Woman on running track using foam roller under upper thighs
MEM Studio/Stocksy United

Here are some exercises that can decrease restrictions in the fascia, stretch your muscles, and relieve symptoms of fasciitis.

Calf stretch

a GIF of a person performing a calf stretch

This exercise stretches the gastrocnemius, or calf muscle, and can help relieve symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

  1. Stand facing a wall with one leg in front of the other.
  2. With both hands on the wall, lean into your front leg, bending the front knee. Keep your back leg straight.
  3. Keep your feet even and flat, and lean forward to feel a stretch in your heel.
  4. Breathe and keep stretching for about 1 minute. Then, switch to the other leg.

Learn more stretches for plantar fasciitis.

Foot stretch

Stretching the heel cord and foot intrinsic muscles can help relieve plantar fasciitis.

A person is performing a foot stretch
  1. Sit with your right leg extended in front of you.
  2. Take a stretching band or any piece of fabric and loop it over your right foot.
  3. Gently pull back on the band to bend your foot towards you and stretch the bottom of your foot.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Downward-Facing Dog

Downward-Facing Dog is a yoga pose that can stretch your legs and back, and strengthen your whole body.

a person is performing downward-facing dog pose
  1. Start in plank pose or tabletop position. Make sure you are pressing evenly into your hands with your fingers widely spread.
  2. Lift your hips, rotate your shoulders outwards, and keep your elbows and knees slightly bent. You should now be in a triangular position with your weight as evenly distributed as possible.
  3. Hold this pose for 1 minute and lower gently.

Quad stretch

a person is performing a quad stretch

This stretch can be beneficial for your quads and hip flexors. You can hold onto a chair or wall for added balance.

  1. Hold your left ankle with your left hand.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and your abdominal muscles.
  3. You should feel a stretch across your hips as you lean slightly.
  4. Hold for about 1 minute. Repeat on the other leg.

Side angle stretch

a person is doing a side angle stretch

This can stretch the fascia and improve mobility in your hips and side body.

  1. With your feet wide, turn your right foot to a 45-degree angle.
  2. Bend your right knee.
  3. If you can, bend to rest your right hand on the floor. If you can’t reach without straining, rest it lightly on your right leg.
  4. Raise your left hand up and over your head, keeping your chest open.
  5. Hold the stretch for around 1 minute and gently stand up.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

Causes of fascial restriction

Common causes of fascial restriction may include the following:

Lack of stretching

A lack of muscle stretching is one of the most common reasons for fascial restriction. Regular stretching helps to engage and improve Trusted Source National Cancer Institute Governmental authority Go to source connective tissue throughout your body, including the fascia.

Sitting too much

Being sedentary and sitting too much is associated with obesity and musculoskeletal disorders. Prolonged hip flexion and a slouched posture from sitting can also cause the fascia to stiffen.

Movement directly affects the flexibility of your fascia. A lack of movement can cause the fascia to become tight and restricted. 

Evidence suggests that physical exercise and body movement can improve fascial health.

Injuries or surgeries

Muscle strains and other types of athletic injuries can cause lesions in the collagen fibers of the fascia. In fact, muscle strains are known for causing injuries Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to the fascia.

Surgeries can also cause fascial restrictions in and around the surgical site.

Chronic inflammation

Inflammation can lead Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to a thickening or scarring pattern in the fascia. This causes it to become more rigid.

Because fascia is composed of collagen fibers, it can slide between surfaces. However, chronic inflammation can restrict this mobility, which can lead to musculoskeletal pain.

Benefits of stretching for the fascia

The Fascia Research Society defines fascia as a sheath or sheet of connective tissue. It attaches, encloses, and separates muscles and other organs from one another.

The fascia system helps Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source protect, support, and connect many body parts. Benefits of maintaining fascial health may include Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

  • improved mobility
  • improved flexibility 
  • increased muscle function
  • reduced muscle and joint pain
  • reduced risk of injury
  • improved body alignment and posture
  • improved inner body awareness

Ten best practices for fascia mobility

Here is a list of 10 best practices to improve fascia mobility.

1. Stretch for 10–20 minutes each day

Research Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source has long shown that stretching can increase flexibility and improve overall joint mobility. 

Foot stretches may help ease pain from plantar fasciitis, one of the most common fascial injuries.

Make sure that you stretch safely and work toward improving your flexibility gradually.

2. Get regular exercise 

Regular exercise helps keep the fascia from becoming stiff and losing flexibility due to lack of movement.

3. Use a foam roller

A study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source of 38 males and females examined the effects of foam rollers on the fascia. It found that fascia mobility significantly improved in the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine.

Foam rollers may help loosen different muscles in the body. Talk with your doctor about whether using a foam roller is a good treatment option for you.

4. Get a massage

Massages can be pleasant and may help to reduce stress. In addition, a type of massage called a myofascial release may help Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source relieve muscle pain and improve physical function.

5. Try heat therapy

Heat therapy helps to increase Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source the elasticity of fascia and other soft tissues. Types of heat therapy include sitting in a sauna, bath, or hot tub. You can also try a heating pad.

6. Try cold therapy

If you are recovering from a muscle or other type of injury, you might benefit from cold therapy.

Cryotherapy is a type of cold therapy used to treat injuries and for exercise recovery.

Cryotherapy may be most beneficial within the first few hours after an injury or strenuous exercise. Researchers Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source have found this can help minimize structural damage and aid in tissue recovery.

7. Do yoga or Pilates

Dynamic stretching with yoga or Pilates may help prevent Trusted Source National Cancer Institute Governmental authority Go to source the fascia from restricting over time. Restriction can lead to decreased flexibility and mobility.

8. Sit up straight

Some postural habits, such as slouching, have been associated with musculoskeletal pain. Research shows Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that improving postural awareness can help relieve chronic pain symptoms of the spine and shoulder.

9. Get dry needling

Dry needling is another tool that may help relieve myofascial pain. Evidence suggests Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source that dry needling is effective in decreasing pain and improving overall physical function.

10. Work with a professional who specializes in mobility

Physical therapists are professionals who help treat and prevent musculoskeletal conditions. They often prescribe exercises to decrease musculoskeletal pain. They may also recommend ergonomic strategies to help you avoid future injuries.

When to see a doctor and how to prepare

Chronic pain is not a normal part of the aging process. Contact your healthcare professional if you have unresolved pain. They can determine the cause of your pain and rule out possible underlying conditions.

Summary

The fascia system is tissue that protects, supports, and connects many body parts. It is essential for many functions of the body, including sitting, jumping, walking, and running.

Talk with your doctor if you are experiencing chronic or worsening pain. They can determine the best treatment for your condition.

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Medical Reviewer: Amy Elizabeth Wolkin, PT, DPT, MBA
Last Review Date: 2023 Feb 15
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