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Fascia tissue connected to body aches, pains

January 30, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
As we age, we often experience aches and pains. These could stem from overuse in exercise, or even being too sedentary.

When we think about what hurts we're generally thinking about our bones, joints and muscles. The cause of the pain may actually be connective tissue known as fascia, the one thing that ties all of these things together.

"The fascia, the connective tissue that's really thick, that is in certain parts of our body that have a lot of receptors in it for nerve endings that tell us what is going on in our body and they help stabilize our body," said Dr. Andrew Pritikin.

Pritikin said fascia surrounds muscles like a sheath of elastic wrap, but has 10 times more sensory nerve endings than muscles. Over time, it can become damaged and a major source of pain- although where the root of the problem is can be tough to figure out.

"The way that the force travels from one body part to another, and then somewhere along that chain there's a disruption and then the disruption can affect a joint above or below that area," said Pritikin.

Common for exercisers are the iliotibial, or IT, band along the hip, as well as the fascia on the foot. Yet Pritikin sees a surge in fascial injuries in those who are sedentary.

"Since we are sitting so much more than we ever have before- in our low back, in our neck," he said.

Fascial tissue sticks to the muscle layer, so exercises should use a foam roller to break up and increase circulation to this connective tissue along the hip and low back. For feet, rolling a tennis ball or a scraper helps.

"One thing that I've learned to do is not push it too hard. If it hurts don't do it," said Santa Monica resident Andrea Hodges.

Hodges initially thought she hurt her hip muscles, but it turned out to be fascial tissue. Brentwood resident Diane Leslie, who writes in bed, developed an upper body weakness from improper posture. Stabilizing exercises helped her from the shoulder down to her trunk.

Pritikin said to ask yourself what task you're doing when you get pain, and then see if you are using proper body mechanics. Mobilizing techniques provided by a physical therapist or trainer helps re-train yourself to move properly again.

"Without good posture nothing else is going to work correctly whether you're sitting, standing or doing any form of exercise," said Pritikin.