11 questions about fascia (expert interview)

Faszien - a term that is currently on everyone's lips. But what are fascia and what are they good for? This and other questions answered Faszienforscher Dr. Robert Schleip, human biologist and director of the "Fascia Research Project" of the University of Ulm in our interview.

1. What are fascia?

Dr. Schleip: Fasciae are white, muscular connective tissue that surrounds bones, muscles, tendons and organs as a shell. Our fascia forms a network that runs through the whole body, giving it structure. In the past, this tissue was rather neglected in conventional medicine. It has been considered more or less as a "packaging organ".

2. What is the function of fascia?

Dr. Schleip: In recent years, it has been found that this muscular, fibrous and elastic connective tissue has many important functions in the body: it is one of our most important sensory organs for body perception. Over 100 million nerve endings are located in this collagenous tissue network. Collagens are fiber-forming proteins of the connective tissue.

Another feature is that fascia affects muscle-to-muscle transmission. Fascia support and shape the body as well. Thus, healthy fascia, for example, can prevent back pain.

3. How come that fascia stick together and what are the consequences?

Dr. Schleip: Healthy fascia and fascia at a young age often have a scissor lattice-like structure and are thus optimally elastic. In elderly, injured or untrained people, the tissue matted by the collagen fibers have a disordered geometry and stick together.

Most of the time, this is due to a lack or wrong use - so lack of movement. This under-demand of the fascia is quite common. However, felted fabric can also occur if a body part was plastered. As a result, one is no longer so mobile and becomes stiff.

In athletes, the fascia can also felt, which is then due to an excessive demand of the fasciae.

4. Fascia should cause back pain - is there something about it?

Dr. Schleip: Yes, that's right! However, we still do not know the percentage of fascia responsible for back pain. However, we do know that even if a herniated disc is present, it is in most cases not responsible for the back pain. For at least 80 percent of the back pain states: cause unknown.

And here the fascia comes into play. It has been found that these are significantly altered and sticky in back pain patients than in age-matched, healthy people and that the back fasciae in humans have numerous nerve endings that serve the perception of pain and movement.

5. Are then many supposed muscle injuries more likely injuries of the fascia?

Dr. Schleip: You can say that, yes. The so-called muscle soreness, for example, should actually be called "fascia hangover". Because the free nerve endings, which are very sensitive one to two days after exercise, are located in the fascial muscle sheath and not in the muscle itself.

However, it is not known exactly why the fasciae now hurt when sore muscles. It could be that the muscle sheath has sustained micro injuries. However, it could also be that the muscle itself was injured, and the muscle sheath then hurts as a designated alarm tissue.

6. Is fascia training good against muscle soreness?

Dr. Schleip: For sore muscles, fascia rolls can be of help. These not only stimulate the connective tissue, but also the skin, muscles and other tissues. There are now relatively reliable, evidence-based reviews that show that the soreness is effectively reduced by a subsequent roles - which I would call now regeneration treatment rather than training - efficiently. And even more so than subsequent massages; presumably because when rolling the circulation and stimulation are promoted even more than with massages.

New studies, including in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, have also shown that with rollers with vibration core the subjective pain attenuation is even more intense.

If you warm up with a fascia roll, for example, before sport, you have a good chance of preventing muscle soreness. Warming up improves blood flow to the body and increases the elasticity of the muscle sheaths so that injuries are less likely to occur. This preventative effect is not clear yet, but it does indicate something. But here, too: If you overstrain yourself during training, you must expect pain.

7. How can I train my fascia and what does the training bring?

Dr. Schleip: There are four pillars with which you can train your fascia optimally:

  1. With fascia rolls or balls you can keep the connective tissue supple and loosen bonded fascia. However, the roles are not the only option and are not enough for a Faszientraining alone.
  2. At least as important are springy, erratic movements that keep the fascia elastic. In the health sport, unfortunately, this bounce training was long ignored, as it was believed that you could train muscles and circulation differently efficient and you have less congestion damage. However, it is now important to rediscover bouncing and springing movements, as one trains through them rather the white than the red tissue. Although you can not train these two types of tissue separately, you can focus on them. Example sports would be jump skipping or trampolining.
  3. In addition, stretch stretching, similar to a cat, does the tissue well. Here it is important that stretching not only stresses a muscle, but is carried out holistically and dynamically. Because this stimulates the fascial chains that run over several joints. Especially suitable here for example, yoga, Thai Chi or Qi Gong exercises.
  4. Last but not least, fascia should also be trained as a perceptive organ through fine movements that train the senses. Sports scientists often talk about so-called sensorimotor training. An attempt is made to train the body feeling by switching off visual stimuli (eg closing eyes) or difficult conditions. This includes, for example, the specific nestling of individual vertebrae on a backrest while sitting.

8. How often and how long should I train my fascia?

Dr. Schleip: It always depends on what you want to achieve. If you want to break down old collagen tissue, daily rolling is recommended for a few minutes per area. But if you want to consolidate collagen, I would only roll every two to three days, because the collagen buildup needs a certain amount of repercussion time.

9. Can I do something else for my fascia?

Dr. Schleip: Of course, exercise is the most important thing for our fascia. But even a balanced diet and healthy sleep come into play here. A healthy lifestyle, in addition to sufficient exercise, can help to keep the fascia elastic.

10. How can I tell if I'm overdoing it with fascia training?

Dr. Schleip: It is precisely these springy, hopping movements described above that cause a certain youthful lightness in us emotionally. This feeling can cause people to overestimate themselves. Then they run the risk of exaggerating the training. Strains or similar injuries can then be the result.

Especially older men you have to slow down in this exuberance. Instead, they should train "age-appropriate", that is slow and well-measured. Women may experience bruising or spider veins if they overdo it with the fascial role.

In America, this behavior is more common than in Germany to observe: US women treat themselves here until they get bruised. Allegedly that should help against cellulite. Significantly healthier is a lower-dose and above all gentler training, which can lead in the long run to tighten the skin. Also, regular jogging visibly reduces cellulite. But you should always keep in mind that cellulite is also genetically determined.

11. Are there certain groups of people for whom fascia training is rather inappropriate?

Dr. Schleip: Stretching stretches are good for almost everyone. Equilibrium movements, such as those practiced by frequent joggers, can overtax the fascia. Also with the resilient bounce training you have to be careful. People with inflammation in the body should first let it fade before they can get into training with light rocker movements. Even people with osteoporosis should practice bouncing movements only after medical consultation.

In addition, people who often catch bruises in everyday life - and sometimes without knowing where - should begin with a soft fascia role and gradually increase. Because these people have a weak connective tissue and would contract with a hard role more bruising.

Conclusion: Faszientraining as a supplement

Dr. Schleip: With all the enthusiasm you should see a fascia training as a supplement - and not as a substitute - for muscle, circulation and coordination training. As so often, it's the combination here too.

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