Shiatsu vitality: Is fascia the cause of your aches and issues?
Fascia is fascinating, and it's sorely overlooked in how your body works, but science is catching up.
So what is it and what does it do, and how is it affecting you as you get older?
Lets start with where it is in your body, it covers everything! If you were to remove everything from your body that wasn't fascia you'd be left with a transparent 3 D image of yourself as fascia covers literally everything! I've said it twice, because it is so important :)
Think of an orange, all that connective tissue when you cut it open, and it's full of juice, which makes it flexible and bouncy.
Then you dry a slice of orange out, how good is it then?
In the past, when dried up bodies were cut up, fascia was an inconvenience to be cut away to allow a mortician to get to muscles, bones and organs, but what they didn't realise is that in a living breathing body fascia is playing key important roles that you can not see.
If you've had a shiatsu treatment with me you'll know that I want you to have lubricated joints and juicy muscles, and when you've turned up feeling achy and bruisy, but after I've worked the area suddenly that dull pain has dissappeared. So what causes this , and what helps it vanish? It's fascia.
This is why it's so important to the way I treat your body with shiatsu and in your overall health, Fascia does a couple of really important things:
1. It holds fluids - juicy fascia is happy fascia and you feel it in being energised, flexible, and feeling limbered up!
2. It holds pain - when fascia is unhappy it's dried out, tensed up and blocked, this then sends pain signals to you. Your nerve endings don't account for how pain is radiated and recorded around your body, you know nerve pain, it's that searing 'ouch' when you bash your funny bone. Lots of your niggling 'in between' dull, achy pains are transmissions from fascia that something isn't right.
3. When you think you're stretching your muscles you have to stretch your fascia first, tense fascia isn't going to smoothly expand, dry fascia (lack of hydration) can glue together, and you feel stuck and inflexible.
4. Fascia is made up of collagen which holds fluid. Collagen remains high whilst women have oestrogen and lowers with the menopause, lowering collagen makes this connective tissue less stretchy, less hydrated and less flexible. This also affects your arteries, 'hardening of the arterials' historically, now known as arterial stiffness is also linked to lowering of collagen.
How to keep your fascia (and joints) healthy
You may think the answer is to drink more water, but if you think of fascia as a giant hose system throughout your body the water won't get past all the kinks in the hoses, and won't rehydrate. You'll become dryer, more clicky, creaky, achy and sluggish.
The water that doesn't get distributed will just get flushed out, so if you're going to hydrate for health you also need to work on your soft tissue for your health. This is where therapies come in, especially gentle ones.
Working on fascia, is delicate and all over the body, it's not deep tissue style, as this bypasses the intricate layers of the connective tissues. Listening to joints and muscles, how they feel, where are the clicks and creaks, and gently working these areas until these kinks have gone will allow flow of fluids again.
Not only is it fluids in, but it's also toxins out, in your lymph. Toxins that are trapped in muscles are moved into and through the fascia to the lymph system, and then aided out of your body. You don't tend to do this unless you're working on your body everyday intentionally, and toxins can build up from what you eat and drink, to how you cool down after exercise (and very few of us do that correctly, me included!)
Movement aids hydration of tissue, but movement should be varied, shaking is a good one, it releases the tension and allows fluid to be distributed. You should know by now I'm a fan of shaking, I incorporate it a lot into treatments, and there is an old chinese saying:
"Shaking cures a thousand ills"
Shaking allows the tension to release, the fascia to relax and the fluids to flow.
Rest is also how tissue can rehydrate, and this is why Shiatsu is gentle, it's supporting your body in resting to allow it to heal. Exercise drives water out of your tissue, then relaxing the tissue and resting it is how you mend it. Think of your body's soft tissue like a sponge, exercise wrings it out, leaving it to relax back into shape (in a bowl of water) allows it to reabsorb.
Holistically, it is all connected.
When you go to certain therapies they treat your shoulder, or your back, they don't treat your whole body; a shiastu does. Fascia connects your whole body, a right shoulder pain, becomes a left hip issue, radiating down to knee and ankle. It maybe a trapped nerve in the shoulder, but by the time its travelled through your body it becomes aches, stiffness, clickiness and a chronic issue that you don't do anything about.
Issues in your body can't happen in isolation, they will cause a knock on effect, because your whole body is connected, by fascia, which is very good at tensing up and compensating for an issue in one part of your body.
Here's an example of life:
As a teen you're in a car accident and get whiplash, you really don't think about it and life moves on. When you're at college and you're doing reading and typing your shoulder starts nagging you, it's a bit stiff and achy. By the time you're 5/10 years into your career you suffer from shoulder tension and migraines. You try to do more exercise but now your lower back is nagging, and the Dr has diagnosed you with Plantar Fasciitis, but not told you how to relieve or resolve it, and then you have a steroid injection and it doesn't work. You're now 40 plus and feeling pretty creaky.
What you've experienced as the years have gone on is compensation in your body for an accident that happened that you never got resolved. It's known as the 'domino effect' and it makes you feel 'old before your time'.
This doesn't need to stay this way though, starting to receive shiatsu can unwind and resolve these compensatory kinks and from then on if your body is kept 'tuned up' (remember when a car went in for it's tuning?) your health, physicality and emotional wellbeing will all greatly benefit.
Shiatsu - Your chance to 'tune up'!
Coming for a shiatsu with a list of minor aches and ailments is great, let's sort out the kinks, get the fluids flowing, bring the fascia back to life, inject some juiciness and see how you feel. Keep this up regularly and your body will thank you for it by feeling better, working better, not waking up so creaky, and you feel just that little bit younger than before you started having shiatsu.
Supplements also help! Your body needs certain minerals to keep the balance of electrolytes in the fluids, magnesium is a starting point, also an age appropriate multivitamin, and for supporting collagen growth (especially in, throughout and beyond menopause) vitamin C.
open that orange I mentioned at the start and what is it full of? Fascia and fluids (ant its tasty and smells refreshing) but it's not so inviting when it's dried and shrivelled, it won't bounce when dropped, and it'll bruise far more easily. Think of yourself as a giant orange, and keep yourself bouncy :)
If you're ready for a tune up, Shiatsu will help you soak up fluids like a sponge, feel more energised and flexible, and in turn this will have a very positive affect on your moods too. Book in for Shiatsu for health if you've not had a treatment with me before, or maintain shiatsu if you're looking to get back into it!
Even dogs love a good massage to get the fluids flowing again!
Andrea is a Shiatsu practitioner who also specialises in helping women transition through perimenopause and into life after oestrogen. Relieving symptoms naturally and effectively with shiatsu, supplements and lifestyle changes. Visit Cotswoldmenopause.co.uk for more information and Shiatsubodyworks.co.uk if you're local to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and would love a revitalising shiatsu.