Fascia. What is it? What’s the deal?

Before I talk about fascia – let me start off by saying I’m a baby boomer who is a Type A to boot. This means I love patchouli, I leave dandelions in my yard for the bees, and I am known for being an unstoppable force who almost never sits down.

Except at work. Since I work with computers all day for 12-hour shifts at a time in a very high-stress job, I relish the times I can stand up!

I love working in the garden, doing a little speed-walking, even yoga when I can find the time. So where am I going with all this?

My kids used to tease me and say I was like a fly, going from project to project. That was until I hurt my fascia. I hurt my thoracolumbar fascia, to be exact. I went from Ms. Busy Bee to WTH is wrong with me in what felt like a matter of a few weeks but had probably been coming on for months or perhaps even years.

What Happened?

I had a bad habit of going from one project to another without preparation. The proverbial chicken without a head. I received a delivery of sod to help spruce up my backyard. I literally went from eating lunch, got up, and got right down to pick up as many pieces as I could carry when my lower back just wouldn’t seem to let me bend down all the way.

It wasn’t the kind of pain I had heard others talk about. I could bend over and straighten, but it felt as if something between the middle of my back and my tailbone was…hard or stiff.

If you have ever done some serious knee bending and then later found your knees to be stiff and sore? That’s similar to what it felt like. I tried stretching my back, and that’s when it really hit me. It hurt like the dickens.

I could not believe I had injured my back. I hadn’t even picked up anything yet! Then I remembered that my back had been achy, for lack of a better word, for a while. I must have been overdoing it, I thought. So, I decided to take a few days “off” and just watch some Netflix. Chillax, as my kids would say.

That Was a Mistake

After 3 days of sitting down or lying in bed, catching up on Orange is the New Black, my back felt worse than before! How could this be? I started taking pain pills almost daily. Getting up and moving around after a day of work was painful. I didn’t know what to do! I tried to do some yoga, but the pain was unbearable. After waiting and wondering for at least 3 or 4 weeks, I finally called a chiropractor in Juneau.

I Was Embarrassed

I always thought back pain was for the elderly or people who had hurt themselves, so how could a fairly active person like myself get into this state? I felt as stiff and unbending as a piece of plywood.

After a thorough examination, answering some questions, and getting a few x-rays, I felt relieved when the doctor said there didn’t appear to be anything really wrong with my back; no slipped discs, no spinal stenosis, etc. He told me I had probably damaged my fascia.

My…what?

I profess my ignorance. I had never heard the term, so how could I have hurt it?

Without getting too technical, the body has two types of fascia, the superficial fascia lies just below the skin. Deep fascia, however, lies on top of and throughout the muscles and joints of the body.

Think of fascia as a type of net that holds ‘things’ together. Deep fascia separates and encloses the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and is wound around the ligaments in joints.

People like me, who sit for long periods of time without stretching, can find that the fascia gets stiff and hard. It can also be damaged by lifting heavy objects or from repetitive motion.

In this photo, you can see the Thoracolumbar Fascia as the white area below #68.

If you have ever had plantar fasciitis, then you know exactly how painful this can be and how stretching the bottom of your foot can stop the pain.

This explains why when I thought I was “resting” my hurt back, I only made it worse.

The Fix

My chiropractor suggested that I start with some deep tissue massage to help break up and soften the fascia.

While this might sound delicious, deep tissue massage was one of those “hurts so good” activities.

I was sore all over after the first session, but I found that I had improved my range of movement.

After the second visit, my chiropractor had me doing some stretching exercises, including a few I did at work every few hours.

I learned how important it was to warm up BEFORE going speed walking or doing yoga or doing anything, really. This was something I had dismissed before and didn’t think was important. Wow, do I know better now!

After a few adjustments and a few more massage sessions, I felt as limber as a Slinky toy. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

The Bottom Line

Even if this is the first time you have heard the word fascia, learn from my mistakes and don’t take it for granted!

Stretch as often as possible. See your chiropractor if you have any pain or stiffness that doesn’t go away within a few days.

Oh yes and don’t eat too much granola before bedtime. It gives you strange dreams.

 

 

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor’s of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998.

He became passionate about being in Juneau Chiropractor Services field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.

Dr. Wells is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.

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