Ninety percent of women over 40 have inflamed, tight fascia, says Harvard-trained women’s health expert Sara Gottfried, MD. The web of tissue envelops and connects our muscles, blood vessels, nerves, bones, and organs. But as we age, inflammation, muscle underuse and poor posture cause tightness, creating sticky, scar-like adhesions. Says Dr. Gottfried, “As fascia gets tight, it clamps down on muscles, nerves and blood vessels, leading to pain, tension and restriction of blood flow, like a kink in a hose.”
Complicating matters: Tight fascia send a constant “stress” message to the nervous system, explains functional health expert Brooke Kalanick, ND, co-author of Hangry: 5 Simple Steps to Balance Your Hormones and Restore Your Joy ($26.09, Barnes & Noble). “When our stress is constant, we’re calling on our brain and adrenal glands to respond all day, every day.” This can lead to adrenal burnout that worsens fatigue.
There’s no test to evaluate fascia health, but if your muscles are in knots or you have limited flexibility, your fascia is tight, says Dr. Gottfried. The steps below can loosen fascia to restore energy.
“Stretching is the best, easiest way to release tension in the fascia,” says Dr. Gottfried. Yoga is especially beneficial, as regularly repeating the poses helps prevent fascial adhesions, she says. Aim to practice three to five times a week for at least 15 minutes for best results.
Taking a 20-minute bath hot enough to make you sweat has been shown to loosen fascia. Plus, heat activates the parasympathetic nervous system to lower cortisol levels.
Loading up on anti-inflammatory foods neutralizes fascia damage, says Dr. Gottfried. Choose non-starchy vegetables like green leafies and tomatoes, healthy fats, such as avocado, and lean protein like poultry.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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