Little ABC for your spa-break questions ...
In their treatment discriptions, wellness hotels often use technical terms, which are hard to understand for potential guests. We have therefore collected and defined the most relevant terms in our small wellness ABC. A tip: Our wellness dictionary also supports word requests. You don't need to know the exact wording.
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What are fasciae?
The term "fascia" is derived from the Latin "fascia" and means "band", "bond", "connect". Today the word "fascia" is used synonymously with the term "connective tissue". Fasciae are thus connective tissue structures that support, envelop and connect all muscles and organs. Fasciae are also called the "sensory organ of body perception". Fascial tissue accounts for about 18 to 25 kilograms of the total body weight.
Fascia reacts to stress hormones, but also to mechanical changes such as small tears and micro injuries. This can lead to restricted movement or painful hardening of the fascial tissue, for example in the dorsal fascia. It is particularly painful when the fascia stiffens and thickens so much that it constricts nerves.
Where in the body are fasciae and what are they actually made of?
Fasciae extend from the surface tissue of the skin to the deepest layers, right down to the skeleton. That is why scientists refer to them as organs in their own right. Depending on their function in the body, fasciae can be either elastic or dense, tensile and tear-resistant or soft and loose. But no matter what function fasciae fulfil in the body, they always consist of the same building blocks:
- the proteins collagen and elastin and
- from an aqueous gel-like mixture of sugar-protein compounds and hyaluron. This is the glue in the body.
Collagens are the most important components of the fasciae, accounting for 30% of them. They give humans - and incidentally all vertebrates - a solid form. Collagens fix muscles, tendons, bones, vessels and organs in place. They provide support, structure and stability and are therefore also called structural proteins. They are very slightly stretchy but still extremely tear-resistant.
Depending on the body region, collagen fibres can be very thin or several millimetres thick. They occur as a flat membrane or they are interwoven deep into the muscles where they enclose the finest muscle fibres. The task of the fascia can be explained very well using the example of a grapefruit cut crosswise: Close to the skin, a white skin encloses the flesh of the fruit and stabilises it. Similarly, in the human body, the deep fascia keep the muscles in shape. This layer is traversed by numerous nerves and blood vessels and shows considerable tensile stress at a young age - at least as long as the collagen fibres are taut. It is only when they get older, lack of exercise or a poor lifestyle that the collagen fibres literally come apart at the seams. The body loses its elasticity, becomes flabby and loses its hitherto clearly defined body shape.
The second important structural protein of the fascia is elastin. In contrast to collagen, elastin - as the name suggests - is elastically stretchable and gives elasticity. Elasticity is particularly important for parts of the body that are subjected to mechanical stress: with its help, they can stretch to the maximum and then spring back to their original position like an elastic band.
The elastic tissue, which stores water and fat, also allows organs to move. When inhaled, for example, it ensures that the lungs expand and the organs in the abdominal cavity sink down without one organ impairing the functioning of the other.
Pregnancy is only possible because the organs in the abdominal cavity, which are surrounded by fascia, slide aside to give the growing baby the space it needs.
Two thirds of our body consists of water, a quarter of which is stored in the connective tissue. A person's water content allows us to draw conclusions about the suppleness of his or her fasciae: Babies have a water content of approx. 80% in the body - everything is elastic and firm. A person over 70 only has a water content of about 50% in the body. The elasticity of the skin and limbs is reduced because the fascial muscle sheaths lose their moisture.
What complaints can arise when the fascial network is out of balance?
complaints of the musculoskeletal system:
- Knee and hip problems
- Teeth grinding
- mouse elbow, tennis elbow
- Growth pains
- Inner restlessness
- Digestive disorders
What can I do to maintain the flexibility of the fascia?
Fasciae can become shorter and harder as a result of extreme sports, but also due to lack of exercise and relieving postures, basic emotional tension, operations or scars. The flow channels of the interstitial space become narrower and the lymph fluid can no longer circulate freely in the body. This means that the cells are no longer sufficiently supplied, waste products are not removed and the tissue becomes over acidic. If this leads to a real congestion, the lymph releases a substance that is actually responsible for blood clotting in wounds: fibrin. Its job is to hold the tissue together like an "adhesive" when injuries occur. The already immobilised fasciae start to stick together and become matted, lose their ability to slide and thus no longer allow the muscle fibres to regenerate. Pain, stiffness and wear and tear of joints and the spine are the result.
Fascia training programmes help to counteract this. Regular stretching and springing exercises slowly but permanently change the tissue. The length, gliding ability and strength of the fascia adapt to the requirements.
How often should I exercise my fasciae?
With the principle of small steps - twice a week for 10 minutes of springy, stretching and invigorating exercises - a lot can be achieved. And not only for the good condition of the fasciae, but for all the muscles, organs, bones, vessels and nerves it packs. The mental well-being also improves when the pain in muscles and joints is reduced due to pliable and flexible facies.
Since when do fasciae play a role in medicine?
Fasciae have not played a role in medicine for a long time. They were considered to be a lifeless wrapping of muscles and other important parts of the body. It was not until 2006 when an award-winning study by neurophysiologists and fascia researchers Dr. Robert Schleip and Dr. Werner Klingler appeared, put the fasciae in the spotlight.
Although the importance of fasciae has long been neglected by medicine, there were doctors decades ago who studied the fascial network in the body.
Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917), the founder of osteopathy, had already dealt intensively with the subject of fasciae. He was probably the first fascia researcher to discover that fasciae supply the body with nerve endings and can be classified as a sensory organ.
Helene Langevin, a neurophysiologist from the University of Vermont, researched that most traditional Chinese acupuncture points are located along fascial lines. When punctured during an acupuncture treatment, the receptors respond by sending signals to the brain and muscles. This releases tension and allows the life energy to flow again.
Biochemist Ida Rolf (1896-1979) is one of the pioneers in the research of fasciae. As early as 1971 she described the fascia as an "organ of form". She developed her own approach to manual therapy, which focused on the fascia - structural integration. Years later her own name became synonymous with this method and has been known under it ever since: Rolfing Structural Integration. Ida Rolf was influenced by osteopathy and chiropractic, yoga, Feldenkrais and the Alexander Technique. Ida Rolf studied the effects of gravity on the body and concluded that an imbalance in the body's statics and structure has a negative effect on the network of muscles, connective tissue, fascia, tendons and ligaments. She attributed tension, stiffness and pain to the connective tissue and not to the muscles or bones.
How does a Rolfing treatment work?
Usually 10 sessions, each lasting about an hour, are sufficient. At the beginning of the treatment the Rolfer will get an idea of the patient's movement pattern in sitting, standing and walking. Situations at the workplace, such as sitting at a desk, will also be simulated.
The patient is then massaged on the treatment table. Pressure is applied to the tissue with hands, palms and elbows in a precise and measured manner. The therapist feels for adhesions and massages until the tissue has reached the desired flexibility. In between, the client is repeatedly asked to perform certain sequences of movements, such as standing up or sitting down, until the correct sequences have been internalised.
In order for the patient to internalise his new knowledge, but at the same time not to be overwhelmed, there should be a time interval of about two weeks between sessions. If old habits creep in again after the end of the sessions, a few hours are usually enough to refresh them.
How long do the results of a Rolfing treatment last?
In general, Rolfing offers a good chance for a lasting change. Of course the starting point varies from person to person. Decisive factors are:
- the age
- the general condition
- the condition of the facies
- How great is the personal willingness for change?
- Does the patient actively participate in the process?
Can I combine facial training with other movement techniques?
Far Eastern techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong, with their soft, dynamic strength and stretching exercises, favour the sliding and holding function of the fascia.
Joseph Pilates, who developed the movement theory named after him in the twenties of the last century, focused on the training of long muscle chains through springy impulses and stretching exercises that stimulate the entire muscle and fascial chain.
Today's concept of fascial fitness is made up of these movement techniques and classical gymnastics. It is advisable to first have the exercises demonstrated by an experienced trainer or physiotherapist in order to put together a sensible, personal training programme. According to Robert Schleip, targeted training once or twice a week is completely sufficient for this.
In the network of fasciae that runs through the body, there are several larger muscle-facial chains, so-called "myofacial traction paths", which ensure coordination and smooth movements across the limbs. In effective fascial training, therefore, muscle groups should never be activated in isolation, but rather the "long-distance connection" of all the traction paths of the body plays a decisive role.
Self-massage with the fascia roll
A special fascia roller, also known as a blackroll, is used for the self-massage of the fasciae. It stretches the fascial tissue, rolls it out and loosens hardened areas. The fascial roller is available in different degrees of hardness and sizes. Beginners should preferably start with a medium degree of hardness. You can also find Blackroll balls especially for the feet, legs, arms or hands.
For example, how does a rollout of the spine work with a fascia roll?
Especially for beginners of fascial training, rollout exercises in standing position are suitable. This also applies to people who are not so mobile in their legs or hips. When rolling out for the lumbar spine, the Blackroll gets stuck between the wall and the lower back. By simply bending the knees, the lumbar spine is rolled out in this way. For a more intensive fascial work, the pelvis is straightened towards the back and a slightly rounded back is created. This allows you to press more strongly against the Blackroll. If you turn your upper body slightly to the left or right, additional pressure is applied to the right or left side of the lumbar spine. When rolling out for the thoracic spine, the Blackroll is placed at shoulder blade height between the wall and the spine. The facies in the area of the thoracic spine are rolled out via knee bends. With small turns to the right or left, the focus of the rollout is shifted to the right or left side.
Rolling out the fasciae with a small ball or roller also helps with pain in the shoulder area. This involves rolling over the painful areas in the chest area. This involves massaging the sternum, shoulder joint and collarbone with circular movements and rolling out the fascia. To treat the back of the shoulder, the ball is also clamped between the shoulder and the wall and the fascia are rolled out with circular movements.
Fascial training - contraindications
Fascial training should be avoided for the following diseases/indications:
- Open wounds