The Connection Between Fascia and Chronic Pain
You’ve probably heard or read the term “fascia” but you may not know exactly what it is or what role it plays in the body.
While the medical community is aware of the existence of the fascia, we’ve only recently become more aware of how important it is when discussing chronic pain.
The fact is that the fascia is everywhere in the human body. Consisting of collagen, it’s a type of connective tissue which forms the underside of your skin, but also coats muscles, your brain and every single vein in your body.
That’s a lot of real estate!
Visualizing fascia as part of a piece of citrus fruit (like an orange, grapefruit, lemon or lime) is helpful in coming to an understand of how pervasive it is in the body. The white pith under the skin and surrounding the fruit cells is analogous to the fascia.
To boil it down to a specific purpose, the fascia in your body is like the superglue that holds you together!
What’s It for?
The fascia creates a support system for the entire body. It’s like a wrapper, protecting every part of your body and helping it maintain its shape and structure. It’s also the reason your body functions smoothly and without pain.
For example, as your muscles move, the fascia prevents them from rubbing against adjacent structures. It also surrounds your organs, preventing them from being damaged in the normal course of your activities.
What’s the Pain Connection?
Until quite recently, it was believed that the fascia functioned only in a supportive role. But we now know that the fascia is full of nerves and nerves are our harbingers of pain. But it also coats our nerves. For chronic pain sufferers, its role is integral to understanding the nature of their pain for the purpose of relieving it.
It’s ubiquity in the body can wreak all kinds of havoc when the fascia is inflamed. The cause of this inflammation can be anything from injury to overuse to repetitive motion – even inactivity.
The fascia is capable of healing itself. But in this healing lies the issue. Instead of being restored to its normative structure (smooth and flat), it heals in clumps. When this occurs, the fascia can adhere to adjacent structures like muscles. This can trap implicated nerves, leading to a condition called radiculopathy. Adhesions like these can lead to friction and limited mobility.
When the fascia is damaged like this, pain may be experienced in other parts of the body and at times, the pain is global. In the case of the foot condition, plantar fasciitis, for example, pain may be experienced in locations as remote as the shoulders.
Treating fascial adhesion is difficult, as the damage often isn’t discernable in medical imaging diagnostics. That’s why many chronic pain sufferers whose pain may originate in the fascia aren’t taken seriously by doctors.
The good news is that this is rapidly changing. As we come to understand the fascia’s role, we’re arriving at better solutions. Contact us.