Fascia for Beginners: Types, Functions, and Exercises

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Stretching for fascia

Fasciae (also written as fascias) hold your body together and actively support your body. They influence your immune system, pass information to your brain and are therefore important for your perception. 

In this article, you will learn what fasciae are, how they transmit pain and why they are important for your immune system. Then we’ll talk about sticky and twisted fasciae and what their symptoms are. Afterward, we are going to show you ways to actively care for your fasciae.

Jump ahead to any of the sections below:

What Is Fascia?

What is fascia in the body?

Fascia experts give the following answer to this question: Every connective tissue in your body is fascia. No matter if it’s a flat tissue or a tendon – everything that separates, transmits power and gives shape to the body and muscles is fascia. 

You will find fasciae for example as milky-white skin on raw steaks and as almost transparent separating skin on oranges or lemons. They wrap and connect bones, muscles, and organs. Due to their cross-linked structure, they have no beginning or end.

Every structure in your body, be it bones, muscles or organs, is surrounded by fascia. In fact, they are shape-giving to us so that “empty” human fasciae (without muscles, organs, etc.) would have the shape of a human body. 

The basic tension of the fascia is influenced by the neural system. During relaxation, the body tension decreases and during stress it increases. Permanent stress causes permanent tension – as well as in the fasciae. This increases the risk of injuries like muscle strains and impedes the immune system by slowing down the metabolism. 

Many other structures are around the fascial web, such as the blood and lymph vessels and nerve fibers. The nervous system works independently without you or your brain having to control it directly. In other words, in the subconscious. 

Different Types of Fascia

Fascial tissue is roughly divided into a superficial layer, a deep layer, and visceral fascia.

The superficial layer lies under the skin and is elastic and rigid at the same time. These characteristics allow this layer to remain tight even when you gain or lose weight rapidly. Thus, after pregnancy, the superficial fascia on the abdomen helps your skin gaining its firm form back.

The deep fasciae enclose muscles, nerves, blood and lymph vessels, bones and organs. Fasciae on bones are called periosteum, while fasciae surrounding the muscles are called myofascial. The exact structure and elasticity of these depend on their tasks and location.

In addition, deeper fasciae are less elastic and less perfused than superficial ones. This means that they are not as adaptable to changes and heal more slowly. 

Fascias that surround organs are called visceral fasciae. Each visceral fascia has a specific name depending on the organ it surrounds. Since they connect and hold the organs, a permanent change in tension of the fasciae due to stress or incorrect posture effects the position of the organs. 

What Is the Purpose of Fascia in the Body?

Running people

Fascias not only keep your body and its components in shape but provide power and drive at the same time. They have many nerves attached to them, which makes them extremely important informants for the brain.

They have many receptors and pass information to the brain, like: 

  • Movements
  • Posture
  • Balance
  • Muscular tension

Between the fascial web runs the lymphatic system. The task of the lymphatic system is to transport toxins and to drain the tissue. This makes it part of the body’s defense against diseases.

Physical exercise strengthens the important exchange and lack of exercise slows it down. Since the fascia and the lymphatic system are closely connected, damage to the fascia always has a negative effect on your immune system. 

Conversely, damage to the lymphatic system has an effect on your fasciae. You can find more details on that here.

Furthermore, the fasciae have many more functions in your body:

Function 1: Fasciae Make You Mobile

Fasciae are intermediaries between bones and muscles. They stabilize and shape your bodies and determine how mobile we feel and are. They also transmit force and store energy. In this way, they support the muscle by offering it an abutment to build up strength. 

If your fascial lines are not stretchy enough, it will affect your entire body. If they lose their ability to glide, the forces that occur are no longer weakened by them but have a greater impact on your muscles. Since muscles aren’t really mobile, restrictions in fascial tissue affect the mobility of the entire body.

If they lose their lubricating ability in the long term due to poor movement, stress, surgical interventions or injuries, they limit the muscles and joints instead of facilitating their mobility. 

Function 2: Fascial Lines Shape Your Body

Fascial lines keep your intestines in the right place and ensure that your body does not “fold together”. In fact, it’s not the muscles that shape your body, it’s the fascial web.

Fascia in the body has a memory that is particularly useful when it comes to short-term injuries. After such a short term without a lot of physical activity, you activate your fascia, which leads them to return to their optimal shape.

Function 3: Fasciae Assist Your Body with Injuries

Fasciae are built to connect with each other. This characteristic helps them to repair from possible injuries quickly. In case they get detached, they will grow and reconnect again, under good conditions.

However, damage in one particular spot can cause serious consequences for your muscles and your body. Hardened fasciae in the foot, for example, can hurt the entire leg and not just the foot.

Function 4: Fascia Lines Protect You in Accidents

Since fascial lines are flexible and elastic, they function as an internal damper. They ensure smooth and flowing movements and protect muscles, bones, and organs in minor accidents. Healthy fasciae regenerate on their own. They only need your active help in case of larger damages such as serious accidents.

Damaged Fascia and Its Effect on Your Body

Stretching back and legs

Healthy fasciae are constantly renewed and do not stick or mat. A one-sided or insufficient strain, bad nutrition or insufficient hydration interferes with their regeneration. 

Damaged fasciae can be sticky, twisted or hardened. Depending on which dysfunction is given, different symptoms and pains occur.

What Is Sticky Fascia?

A lack of exercise leads to slower lymph flow between the fasciae and thus to fluid congestion. In the long run, this leads to them sticking together or hardening.

If the muscle tension is too high, your body releases a substance called adenosine triphosphate. This combines with a dissolved substance from blood coagulation, called fibrin. This compound also makes fascia stick together.

Both too little and too much movement due to permanent tension lead to adhesions. Any sticking together hinders the lymph flow and leads to further sticking together and thus weakens your immune system.

Sticky Fascia: Symptoms

The symptoms of sticky fasciae are diverse. For example, you may simply feel immobile or stiff, have bone pain, or problems with your immune system.

What Is Twisted Fascia?

Fasciae are aligned in the body in such a way that they can divert forces that occur. If you move against their alignment, the fascia may twist or split.

If, for example, you suffer from a crooked pelvis, your entire body will be affected when you run, and so will your fascia. This causes them to twist around the pelvic bones. Their connection to your back will cause back pain instead of hip pain. 

Ignoring the cause in time can lead to chronic strain and pain.

Twisted Fascia: Symptoms

Twisted fasciae show different symptoms. The pain ranges from a tense sensation to severe pain. Twisted fasciae show up in different parts of the body and also restrict your immune system.

What Is Hardened Fascia?

Stress, operations, unbalanced strain and lack of exercise lead to shortened or hardened fasciae. The elasticity decreases and the fasciae change from a mobile to a tough and inflexible web of lines. The joints start to hurt and the muscles are limited in their mobility.

Unilateral training can, for example, lead to hardened fasciae. While the excessive tension in the trained area leads to sticking fasciae, the untrained areas harden. They need physical activities that work evenly with the entire body. Any imbalance is manifested by disturbances in the tissue. 

Hardened Fascia: Symptoms

The symptoms of hardened fasciae are often dragging pain. The intensity of the pain varies. Often you feel the pain only under stress. In addition, your body’s defense weakens and restricts your mobility.

How to Deal with Damaged Fascia?

Back massage

In the best case, you should care about your fasciae before you start having problems with them. Healthy fascias need a healthy diet, holistic movements and sufficient fluid. They have a high protein content, which is why a balanced and protein-rich diet is ideal for their care.

Depending on your personal preferences, you have many possibilities to take care of them. Here are some suggestions from us:

  • A daily walk in the fresh air
  • Integrate fascia workout into your fitness routine
  • Yoga
  • Qigong 
  • Swimming
  • Fascia stretch training
  • Salt baths
  • Saunas
  • Specific fascia exercises
  • Use a fascia stick

It is crucial that you are physically active and that in a balanced way. Do not overdo it by loading too much pressure or effort on one part of your body. Especially if you already suffer from limited mobility, movements such as asanas (postures) in yoga or the calm sequences of qigong can be ideal. 

Here you can find our Yoga guide for beginners and the Qigong guide for beginners.

The first step, however, is to find out in which way your fascia is affected. Depending on the type of pain you are experiencing, you (in case of doubt your doctor or physiotherapist) can find out whether they are sticky, twisted or hardened.

If you want to help with the healing of your fascia, you should drink enough water. Your body is removing toxins and other waste from your body, where they reach your liver and kidneys. Your body can only do this with sufficient hydration. 

In order to loosen your sticky fascia, you have to understand its structure. If you loosen them in the hip muscles, this can show up in other parts of the body. Adhesive fasciae in the legs can cause pain in the hips, for example, as this is where the interaction is hindered. 

Thus many Asanas from the different Yoga directions are suitable as Fascia Yoga exercises. Practices like Pilates with their holistic training also strengthens fascia.

Fasciae can’t be optimized by a one-sided treatment. Rather, it’s the interplay of different habits that determines the condition of your fasciae. There is no special diet for adhesive fasciae – but there are ways to support the processes through a balanced diet. 

Pay attention to yourself and what is good for you. You can find ideas in our article on biohacking or in our article on Healthy Lifestyle Habits for a Healthy Lifestyle

Conclusion

Fasciae are an important part of your body. Disorders in the fascia affect the mobility of your body and your well-being and limit your health. 

You can use many different holistic methods to nourish your fasciae. They need:

  • A mixture of relaxation and tension
  • Excitation by movement
  • Well-distributed load on the body
  • Sufficient supply of nutrients and fluids

Remember that fasciae function like a motion memory. Observe yourself and try to notice unilateral movements.

For example, if you tend to lift your shoulders during stress, your fasciae will memorize that movement. They stiffen at this point and permanently tell your brain that there is stress, which will lead to even more tension and stress.

Meditation and exercises have a positive short-term effect on your well-being. However, you will only have a long-term effect if you consciously counteract lifting your shoulders in situations of stress. 

Observe yourself and your body closely. Mindfulness can help you with that.

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If you have doubts or think that you might have severe trouble with your fasciae, you should consult a doctor. This article is not intended to replace medical advice.

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