You know that feeling you have when you first wake up and your whole body is stiff but you’re muscles are completely relaxed? If you think about it, there is no reason you should feel uncomfortable after a full nights rest, and yet you and many Americans do.
The culprit is an often unknown part of the body that is capable of causing a lot of grief: fascia. Sound familiar? Didn’t think so.
Fascia or fasciae (plural) are defined as connective tissue fibers, primarily collegan, which form sheets connecting and enclosing all the muscles and organs of the body. Similar to tendons and ligaments, these dense bundles of proteins are flexible but are also prone to stiffness.
To better paint a picture, here are the major functions of fisciae:
- Provide a smooth surface for muscle movement.
- Hold muscles and organs in place.
- Connect muscle movement to bone mobility.
- A flexible protective layer for nerves and blood vessels within muscles.
All pretty important I’d say. It’s worth noting that fascia is not concentrated in one single area of the body and thus the pain of affected fasciae can occur in both large or limited regions of the body.
According to studies, nearly everyone at some point in their life will suffer from this type of pain. There are possible triggers which encourage chronic myofascial pain including mechanical factors like differing leg lengths, poor posture, stress and overactive muscle use.
Emotional and physical stresses like depression and anxiety will increase muscle tension subconsciously and may be part of the reason you wake up feeling sore with no prior activity.
What can be done to avoid this routine discomfort?
Keeping your fascia fit is one way. The impulse to stretch right out of bed is a good thing. Slow and steady movement of your arms and legs will increase circulation and relieve the accumulated tension.
Fascia pain is tricky. On the one hand you don’t want to over exert yourself by moving too much too fast, and yet the reverse can be just as problematic. If you remain stationary for too long, your fasciae can become stiff and sore.
Maintaining a supple fascia is about moderation. Dynamic and varied stretching will keep this body part active without doing permanent damage.
Warming up properly before strenuous exercise will drastically minimize the ripple effect of pain. Take 5 minutes to swing your arms and legs gently to lessen the impact of increased movement. Foam rollers are a an effective way to massage the fascia and disperse pain.
Keep in mind that the pain should not overwhelm you and if it feels like none of these techniques are reducing your discomfort it may be worth seeking the advice of a professional massage therapist. There is a difference between an injury and chronic discomfort.