If you are unfamiliar with the term ‘Fascial’, substitute the term ‘Connective Tissue’. While both muscle and fascia are both considered to be connective tissue, fascia is not the same as muscle, and should be considered to have a multitude of dissimilar characteristics. One of the primary components of fascia is collagen (fibers).
One way to describe the difference could be to say that muscle’s main job is to create tension through contraction (shortening) and relax (return to its normal resting length), while fascial connective tissue’s main job is to absorb the tension created by muscle and release it in a catapult-type fashion.
Fascia and muscle do not and cannot function independently to create movement, but must function together to facilitate movement.
This is important because muscle and fascia respond to different stimuli in order to maintain functional integrity. Specifically, as we age, fascial tissue fails to maintain the structural characteristic of its collagen (known as crimp), and becomes ‘flattened’. Flattened collagen cannot absorb and release tension like crimped collagen can. As a result, the fascia loses its capacity for absorbing and releasing tension. This places a much greater load on the muscle (to create, absorb, and release energy in the manner required) to produce movement. This activity is more than muscle alone can accomplish. As a result, when the fascia loses its functional integrity, the muscle becomes overloaded. When this occurs, we can experience a pain response mediated by the central nervous system (CNS). This pain is not the result of a structural lesion (structural damage). The pain is the result of a functional lesion which arises from a combination of muscle and movement impairment (loss of proper length/strength balance), which leads to short-lived compensatory movement patterns, eventual decompensation, and finally, pain.
The good news is that we can train both muscle and fascia to maintain their individual functional capabilities, and thereby (in the absence of structural damage) maintain our pain-free movement experience. However, we must utilize different training (stimulation) concepts and methods for each.
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