10 Best Practices for Keeping Your Fascia Healthy: How to Maintain Pain-Free Mobility

Medically Reviewed By Gregory Minnis, DPT
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Most people understand the benefit of having healthy bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. However, a thin connective tissue called fascia is also important, and things like stretching can help keep your fascia healthy.

What is fascia?

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

The term “fascia” has historically held many interpretations depending on its professional use.

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

The fascia system helps protect, support, and connect many body parts. Benefits of maintaining fascial health may include:

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

In short, the fascial system supports your body’s musculoskeletal system, which is essential for proper body function, including the ability to sit, jump, walk, and run.

An important term to remember is “myofascial pain.” This term describes the pain associated with muscle (“myo”) and fascia, as they are so interconnected. 

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 fascia restriction. Just as exercise keeps our muscles and cardiovascular systems healthy, regular stretching helps to engage and improve our connective tissue — including our fascia — all over our bodies.

Sitting too much

Being sedentary and sitting too much is associated with obesity and musculoskeletal disorders. Evidence also supports the need for physical exercise and body movement to improve fascial health.

The fascia can become tight due to a lack of movement and lose flexibility. Mobility directly affects how well our fascia can move and how stiff it can become. 

Injuries or surgeries

Muscle strain injuries due to athletics or other types of injuries can cause lesions within the collagen fibers of the fascia. In fact, muscle strains are known for causing injuries to the fascia. 

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

Chronic inflammation

Fascia is known to become more rigid and cause a thickening or scarring pattern due to inflammation.  

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

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

Researchers have long shown that stretching can increase flexibility and improve overall joint mobility. 

Ensure that you are stretching safely and working toward improving flexibility gradually. If you have one of the most common types of fascial injuries in the foot, plantar fasciitis, then foot stretches may help ease the pain

2. Get regular exercise 

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

3. Use a foam roller

One randomized control study of 38 males and females found that using a foam roller significantly improved fascia mobility in the thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine. 

Foam rollers may be able to help loosen different muscles in the body. Talk with your healthcare professional to determine 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, there is a specific type of massage called a myofascial release that, according to research, can help relieve muscle pain and improve physical function.     

Myofascial release treatments involve massaging and stretching target areas that feel stiff or tight.

5. Try heat therapy

Heat therapy helps to increase the elasticity of fascia and other soft tissues. Forms of heat therapy may include sitting in a sauna, bath, or hot tub or using a heating pad. 

6. Try cold therapy

On the other hand, if you are recovering from a muscle injury or other type of injury, cold therapy might be more helpful. Cryotherapy is a type of cold therapy used as a physical treatment for injury and exercise recovery. 

Researchers have found that using cryotherapy within the first few hours after an injury or after strenuous exercise can help minimize the amount of structural damage and aid in tissue recovery. 

7. Do yoga or Pilates

Dynamic stretching with yoga or Pilates may help prevent the fascia from restricting itself over time, which leads to decreased flexibility and mobility.

8. Sit up straight

Some postural habits, such as slouching, have been associated with musculoskeletal pain. Recent research shows that improving our postural awareness can help to decrease chronic pain symptoms of the spine and shoulder.

9. Get acupuncture

Acupuncture is another tool that may be able to assist with myofascial pain. Evidence suggests that acupuncture is effective in decreasing pain and improving overall physical function. 

10. Work with a professional who specializes in mobility

Physical therapists (PTs) are professionals who help treat and even prevent musculoskeletal conditions. PTs often prescribe exercises to decrease musculoskeletal pain and educate their patients on using good ergonomics to avoid future injuries.

When to see a doctor and how to prepare

Chronic pain is not a normal part of the aging process. If you have unresolved pain, it is always a good idea to see your healthcare professional for a more thorough investigation into the cause of your pain. It is important to make sure there is not a more serious issue going on.

Your doctor may have advice or recommendations to help you keep your fascia healthy and maintain pain-free mobility. They may also refer you to a mobility specialist. A mobility specialist can create a plan to help you improve muscle pain or teach you exercises to improve fascial health for a specific body part.

Make a list of notes or questions to bring to your appointment. Prepare to give your healthcare professional as much information as you can about the body areas that are concerning you, as well as a detailed health history. Enlisting professional medical help can put you one step closer to managing fascial health as well as positively improving your overall well-being.

Summary

The fascia system plays a vital role in protecting, supporting, and connecting many body parts. It is essential for proper body function, including the ability to sit, jump, walk, and run. There are several exercise and lifestyle practices that can be useful in maintaining a healthy fascia system and improving mobility, flexibility, and muscle function.

Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing chronic and increasing pain to determine the best course of action for your circumstances.

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Medical Reviewer: Gregory Minnis, DPT
Last Review Date: 2022 May 12
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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