Back when I was in school, it was taught the white "film" on cadavers (fascia) was inert and non-specific. But we know now that fascia is, without argument, alive and well. So if we accept that fascia is unequivocally connected throughout our body and that it is indeed "alive,” how do we exercise to affect the fascial system?
Fascia is water and glycosaminoglycans, a technical term for carbohydrate or sugar. To optimize health, pain management and injury avoidance, fascia must be well-hydrated. The water trapped inside the tubes of fascia move up and down a pressure gradient from high to low, pulsing fascia like a receding wave, meaning it's affected by all movement and hydration.
If we always move in familiar patterns, fascia molds and secures itself into those repeated patterns (even more so if there is insufficient water available). For example, sitting at a desk often has the shoulder blades glided lateral on the rib cage. If the fascia isn't released and trained into a retracted position, the shoulder blades will lock down and forward into this faulty pattern, directly affecting movement to the neck and arm.
Fascia can be released best with hands-on manual therapy for the quickest results, or through stretch-and-hold techniques. Here are areas it's crucial to stretch fascia — especially if you're sitting all day — and how to do it:
1. Shoulder Fascia
For shoulder fascia stretches, stretch above the shoulder at the neck and below the shoulder, at the arm. Releasing some tension above and below the shoulder first will allow a new fascia tension to ensue. Hold fascia stretches for 30-90 seconds. If it's too hard to hold the stretch, repeat at intervals until you've accumulated two minutes of stretching.
2. Neck Fascia