What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? If you’re an animal, you stretch. If you’re a human, you likely hit the snooze button on your alarm clock or head into the kitchen for a cup of coffee – but what you should do is stretch. Those stiff muscles feel great when they’re stretched out, and for good reason: we are meant to move.
Fascia is connective tissue that’s found all over the body. Western science and medicine has largely ignored the role of the fascia in good health; but because it’s found literally head to toe the functions of fascia merit a closer investigation.
Healthy fascia, composed of layers of collagen and elastin, is smooth and slippery, so that it can “glide” and move. When your muscles are stiff, it’s because something is causing the fascia to meet resistance. That something is “the fuzz”, which is actually the growth of sticky cobweb-like collagen fibres that solidify the muscle, making movement difficult. This fuzz forms during periods of long inactivity, such as when we are sleeping, watching a movie, on a long car trip, or when we don’t exercise. As the fuzz builds up and knits together, what was once muscle stiffness can turn to a limited range of motion.
Your range of motion won’t be the only thing impacted, tightened fascia can lead to other health problems, eventually squeezing nerves and veins, which may stop areas of the body from getting much-needed nutrients.
Stretching, acupuncture, foam rolling and deep tissue massage are great ways to free yourself from the fuzz. When we stretch- the fuzz breaks up and disperses. You are literally telling these collagen fibres that knit together to “let go” of each other, allowing the muscle to move freely again.
This build up of “fuzz” can affect your ability to breathe deeply. Each of the 12 ribs is connected by fascia. When the fascia here becomes rigid and restricted, the ribs, which shield the lungs, may not allow the lungs to expand to full capacity. Besides restricting airflow, a rigid rib cage may also limit blood flow to and from the heart. This combination of a lack of oxygen and nutrient rich blood is detrimental and deadly to your cells; long story short, it is the beginning of an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment in which disease can survive. Stretching not only feels great, it helps you stay healthy!
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