GOOD FOR THE MUSCLES: Muscles are more important than we first thought.
GOOD FOR THE MUSCLES: Muscles are more important than we first thought. Thinkstock

Muscles: the wrapping around everything that moves us

vanessa.horstman

LIVING NATURALLY with Olwen Anderson

WE USED to think our muscles were simply levers, connected to tendons and ligaments in order to move our limbs, that they were all separate from one another and damage in one muscle wouldn't affect other parts of the body.

But we know more now about how our bodies are constructed, how they work and how function can be restored after damage.

We now know that what helps give us our shape and holds everything, is a vast web of connective tissue called the fascia.

We've got a layer under our skin, another layer coating each muscle bundle, yet another layer around each fibre of muscle tissue ... and so on, right down to the web of connective tissue holding our cells in place, and even within each cell: ensuring the tiny contents within don't tumble around like clothes in a washing machine.

We even have connective tissue to hold our internal organs in place.

One of the big jobs for fascia is to buffer the stresses, bumps and gravitational forces that we're exposed to in everyday life.

Since this fascia is elastic enough to move in several directions, it responds to tension in one area by compensating through stretching elsewhere. But when tissue is damaged it can heal in ways that restrict its elasticity.

You've probably noticed this if you have a significant scar on your skin - the scar just doesn't move so freely as the original skin. Movement isn't restricted only in that particular area, it 'pulls' in other areas of your body to compensate.

According to myofascial therapies, injuries to the fascia in one place can have an impact on fascia in distant parts of the body that are far away from the original injury.

Worse, as time passes, that dislocation and dysfunction of the fascia can deepen, restricting movement more and more.

In practical terms that means unresolved or inadequately managed and treated sprains, strains and movement problems can deteriorate as the decades pass, gradually impinging on your ability to move without pain.

The other, hopeful perspective is that regular stretching, massage and adjustment treatments can help you maintain your mobility.

There's lots of information out there now about fascia and myofascial therapies, so if you're experiencing a musculoskeletal injury that just won't seem to resolve, perhaps it's worth investigating a myofascial therapy to help things along.

Olwen Anderson is a naturopath and counsellor and a columnist with the Tweed Daily News. She can be contacted at www.olwenanderson.com.au