Fascia can be found all throughout the body in multiple layers ranging from the top most layers of the skin down into the organs, muscles, and outer coverings of bone. Fascia is often referred to as a three dimensional network and described as a tightly woven fish net. The spaces within the fascia network allow things like veins, arteries, nerves, blood vessels to pass through the network. Fascia then covers bones, muscles, and is encased within muscles.
Fascia is made up of compacted collagen fibers and the fibers are micro-tubules filled with fluid. As a response to injury, inflammation, or high stress; the micro-tubules collapse and become dehydrated. Fascia tries to protect the structures that are passing through its network (i.e. blood vessels) by coating itself with a gel like substance and allowing itself to compress and harden. However, when the fascia compresses it can cause impingement on these structures and restrict movement as well as function. Tight fascia can cause up to 2000 pounds of pressure per square inch and can also with stand that amount as pressure as well.
Hardened fascia does not appear on MRI’s or x-rays and more research is being done to better understand the fascia system. Within the past 5 years, research has revealed that fascia is more than the web like network of connective tissue and has a much more vital role with movement, protection, and healing.
Things like dehydration, poor posture, and direct trauma can effectively weaken fascia. Stretching, hydration, as well as proper body mechanics and posture can help release and improve the function of the fascial system. There is a massage modality massage therapists use called myofascial release to help release tight fascia. When the fascia is released, it re-hydrates and releases the underlying structures. While these techniques help with the symptoms of pain brought on by the tense fascia, massage cannot correct or treat the cause. Massage can effectively break up the upper layers of fascial tissue with very little pressure. Deep tissue massage and stretches can help release the next deeper layers of fascia. Cupping provides a way to separate the upper layers of fascia by lifting up the layers as opposed to the traditional downward motions of massage.
For better comprehension of the fascia network, I highly recommend researching the fascia and orange analogy on YouTube. This is a very useful analogy to help better understand the fascia system.