Sweaty Person

Don’t Sweat It!

People exercise for many reasons. Whether it is heart health, weight loss, balance, or stress relief, there is a common misconception that you have to sweat in order to have a productive workout and to see results.  In fact, many people feel that it is a waste of time to exercise if they don’t break a sweat! However, you can still get a great workout and see changes in your body without drenching your clothing.

The human body sweats to regulate body temperature and to cool the body down. During exercise our heart rate and blood pressure increase, which can also cause the body to sweat. In general, men sweat more than women. Some research shows that the more fit you are, the more you sweat. Additionally stress, hormones, genetics, and environmental temperature are factors that affect the rate of perspiration.

Sweating is not directly correlated to the amount of calories burned, and it does not determine whether or not you achieved your workout goals. A good workout should be defined by the duration, intensity, and load of the workout – for both aerobic and resistance exercise.  You can improve muscle tone and strength, improve balance and posture, fix motor problems, increase core strength, and improve endurance without breaking a sweat! For example, pilates, yoga, and strength training with weights are all great for improving muscle tone and endurance. However, most of the time, sweating is kept to a minimum during these activities.

Breaking a sweat occurs more often during a cardio-intensive workout, such as running or spinning.  Aerobic workouts are great for your heart health and they do burn calories as well as help with fitness and weight loss. However, these workouts do not build a substantial amount of muscle and therefore do not increase metabolic rate. A combination of aerobic and resistance training is the best way to reach optimal fitness and weight loss goals.

It is important to understand that you do not have to kill yourself for hours each day sweating profusely to look and feel great. It is great to work up a sweat during a workout, but you do not have to sweat profusely every single session! It is much more important to make sure you are activating the proper muscle groups and using correct form in order to prevent injury and to move efficiently. This will enable your muscle groups to work properly and therefore will help you strengthen them appropriately. This, in turn, will give you the body you want and help you to reach all of your fitness goals.

Arena Heart Healthy Tips (1)

Heart Healthy Habits

February is American Heart Month, which focuses on the prevention of cardiovascular (or heart) disease. Cardiovascular is a term which relates to the heart, as well as the arteries and veins that supply our organs with blood. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States.  Many Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, or an unhealthy diet. Your risk also increases with age; however, regardless of age, it is NEVER too early to start practicing heart-healthy habits. Here are a few steps you can begin implementing at any age:

  • Check your family history. Ask family members if they have had heart disease or any risk factors for it. If the answer is yes, you have an increased chance for developing the disease will go up so it’s definitely important to learn the information sooner rather than later.
  • Smoking will double your risk for heart disease and stroke. Avoid all smoke, including second hand. Plus smoking combined with certain oral contraceptives can cause an increase in your blood pressure, so women should be sure to choose their birth control carefully.
  • Know your numbers, such as your cholesterol and blood pressure, which will impact your heart health. Visit your doctor regularly to monitor both of these. As we age, it becomes increasingly more critical to monitor changes in our body so make sure to get those regular checkups and screenings.
  • Excess weight increases the heart’s work. It also raises blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and triglyceride levels while lowering HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It can also make diabetes more likely to develop. By losing as little as 10 pounds, you can lower your risk for heart disease.
  • Follow a healthy, balanced diet & exercise regularly. As we age, our dietary needs, as well as physical limits, may change. However, regardless of your age, making smart food choices and keeping yourself active will insure a longer lifespan. A good rule of thumb is to follow these guidelines:
    • Eat more fruits & vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry/fish, and nuts.
    • Avoid red meat, as well as sugary and processed foods, and foods high in sodium.
    • For overall cardiovascular health, the AHA suggests 30 minutes of aerobic activity, 5 days per week along with muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week.
  • Regular physical activity can relieve tension, anxiety, depression & anger. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen, which directly affects the brain. Long term stress will cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to damage of the artery walls. Find ways to reduce and/or manage your stress at home and at work. Practice stress management and relaxation techniques. A stressful situation will almost always cause your quality of sleep to decline, which can also impact your heart health.
  • Part of living a heart-healthy lifestyle is also dependent on getting enough sleep. People who don’t sleep enough are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits.Studies show that adults who sleep fewer than six hours per night are about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Good-quality sleep decreases the work of your heart, as blood pressure and heart rate go down at night. Lack of sleep can also increase insulin resistance, a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Making small adjustments to your daily routine will dramatically improve your overall quality of life. Remember – it’s never too early!! Take action today so you can look forward to a healthier tomorrow!

by Gina Stallone

Bachelor-Looking-final

Late Night Binge: Habit or Hunger?

Late night snacking is one of the number one problems with America’s eating habits today. Cookies and milk after dinner, bowl of popcorn while watching your Wednesday night sitcoms, a handful of M&M’s from the dining room candy bowl. It all adds up, and increases blood sugar before bedtime, which in turn will cause you to store body fat as your sleep.

Now are you eating due to hunger or habit? Majority of poor eating requires behavior modification, not just a “diet plan”. So let’s talk about a few things that can be done in order to prevent that late night binge.

Step outside for some air

When you head to the kitchen for that late night snack, step outside for some air, take the dog for a walk around the block one or two times before you choose something to eat. A combination of the fresh air, time to think, and endorphin production might change your mind about that sleeve of Oreos.

Change the type of snack

It’s not necessarily the time that you are eating the food, but how the food is broken down in the body and how your body reacts. Carbohydrates break down as sugar in the body. Insulin kicks in to bring the blood sugar down. Insulin will remain high as you sleep due to your sugary treat, and insulin tells the body to store body fat. If you spike your insulin before bed, you will essentially be storing fat while you sleep. So choose a snack that is low in sugar, contains a sufficient amount of protein (>10g), and has a good source of fats. The fat and protein sources will satiate you without increasing insulin production. Walnuts are a great choice!

Eliminate mindless eating

Walnuts would be a great evening snack to munch on to cure that late night craving, but did you know a serving size is only a quarter of a cup? A person could easily eat over a full cup of walnuts if they are paying attention to the television rather than how big their handfuls are, and a cup of walnuts has over 800 calories in it. This could be half the necessary calories in someone’s daily diet! Don’t keep snack containers and bags next to the couch in order to prevent overeating mindlessly. Make sure to measure out a serving size of your snack in the kitchen and only make one trip.

Make sure not to skip meals during the day

Whether you feel hunger or not throughout the work day, your body requires fuel in order to function properly. If the body is not supplied with enough energy to work efficiently, you will in turn crave high caloric foods later in the evening, your body’s feedback mechanism to make up for what it lost. Set alarms on your phone to remind yourself to eat so you can prevent the late night binge. Don’t let the day get away from you!

Avoid sugary foods

Did you know sugar is highly addictive? The same sensors in the brain are signaled when eating your chocolate ice cream that would be affected if you were to inject illicit drugs into your system. Once the brain is signaled, the body will crave more, and even withdraw from the sugar when you look to eliminate it. Remind yourself of this before choosing a sugary treat!

Healthy weight loss or maintenance is not putting yourself on a diet. It’s behavior modification and making healthy lifestyle habits for a long and healthy future!

By:

 From Maze Men’s Health

Kristie brings her expertise as an Exercise Physiologist to Maze, focusing on helping patients improve health behaviors in order to assist in the therapy of male sexual dysfunction and improvement of endothelial function. She takes both a lifestyle and behavioral approach to creating wellness goals for patients in order to benefit their treatment outcome.

Winterize your body

Winterize Your Body

Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA

Cold weather and icy conditions are not only a risk factor for your car in the winter but also for your body. Just as you need to warm up your car before you drive in the winter you need to do the same for yourself if you will be pursuing outdoor activities in the colder months. Before you exercise you need to increase circulation to your muscles and get your heart pumping. I advise my patients to do a light jog or jump on an exercise bike for 5 minutes indoors before going outside to exercise. Once you are warmed up, a good stretch will help prevent injuries. For skiers and snowboarders it is very important to stretch calf muscles, hamstrings and quads.

To stretch calf muscles, do the runner’s stretch. Bring one leg 2 feet behind the other and keeping your back knee straight, lean against a wall. To stretch your hamstrings, sit on the floor in a V and reach for your toes one leg at a time. And finally stretch your quads, lie on your stomach and bring your foot your butt pulling using the arm on the same side. Do each stretch for each leg for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times. If something else feels tight when warming up, stretch that out as well.

In the winter, you may put snow tires on your car for optimal driving. This is also a good idea for yourself. You should wear the appropriate clothing for the winter. Typically you will start out your winter work out feeling very cold, but over time you will start to sweat and even fell warm. Being able to loosen clothing such as unzipping a jacket or opening vents will help you from getting too hot. Layers are important and being able to loosen or remove these layers is key. You lose a lot of body heat through your head (especially children), so I recommend starting with a hat but overtime you may want to remove this. Of course if you ski, always wear your helmet.

Even though you are feeling cool during the winter work outs, hydration can still be an issue. Try to drink enough water before you work out and keep drinking while you are exercising. If you will be exercising for less than an hour, you only need to drink water. If you are going for more than an hour, you will need to replace the electrolytes you are sweating out. Drinks such as Gatorade can replace the lost electrolytes as well as lost water.

If something is hurting, don’t make the mistake of pushing through it. If it continues to hurt or you have a real injury, call your local orthopedic sports medicine specialist’s office number. Keep that doctor’s number on your cell and don’t hesitate to call and get checked. My office is very busy Monday mornings from the weekend injuries, but I always get my patients in to see me the same day for urgent injuries. Try and prevent injuries before they happen, but if you need to be seen see a local specialist ASAP.

Westchester Personal Training

Why Personal Training Works

People today often consider using a personal trainer a luxury rather than a necessity. In today’s economy, we have many choices about where to use our expendable income, and many people feel that paying a trainer is not worth the expense. However, when you take into account the millions of dollars wasted on diet pills, quick fixes, and unused gym memberships every year, personal training seems like a bargain! Fifty percent of gym members stop going to the gym after three months. None of these people got any results! Statistically, when people work out on their own, only 3 out of 10 see results. On the other hand, 9 out of 10 people see results when working with a trainer.

The benefits of hiring a personal trainer far outweigh the costs. First and foremost, trainers accurately evaluate your current level of fitness and prescribe exercises and routines appropriate to your fitness level. This avoids unnecessary strains and injuries and ensures you reach your goals more efficiently. This is especially important for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions and injuries. You certainly deserve to feel better and not worse after a workout!

Trainers also provide a very good orientation to working out, especially if you are a beginner. Many people aren’t sure what they should be doing in the gym and don’t know what exercises or weights they should use. There is “no one size fits all” exercise program because people have different goals, strengths, and weaknesses. Personal trainers can individually design programs so that you see quicker results and are more productive with your time. They also teach proper form and technique; doing exercises wrong increases the risk of injury. In addition, trainers add variety to workouts to focus on different muscle groups and make the workout interesting so you don’t get bored.

Athletes and those training for events can also benefit from the expertise of trainers. Personal trainers can tailor programs to ensure you are strengthening the correct muscles, keeping the best range of motion, and avoiding injury. They can help you reach your optimal level of fitness so you are better prepared for your sport.

Personal trainers are also very motivating. In our busy society, it is difficult to find the time to exercise or to push ourselves to get to the next fitness level on our own. Trainers know when to push you and when to back off. Also, people feel accountable to their trainers and having an appointment ensures they don’t skip the gym.

Lastly, trainers are results-oriented. They keep track of your progress and make changes to routines to help better achieve your weight and fitness goals. If you are going to invest in going to the gym, why not do it right? With personal training, your chances of looking and feeling your best become more of a reality than a dream.

By: Denise Groothuis

Holiday Heifer

How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

The holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is an exciting and fun-filled time of year. The holidays are filled with family, celebration, excitement, and joy; however, they can also be filled with increased commitments, less free time, stress, and an overabundance of food and alcohol. As a result, many individuals find themselves skipping workouts, eating and drinking excessively, and allowing themselves to give into temptation, which often results in weight gain.

Rather than wait for your New Year’s Resolution, there are many things you can do to prevent those added pounds around the middle. First, workouts should be scheduled on your calendar as appointments that you can’t miss. Next, set goals for yourself, and keep a journal to help you follow through. It is important to remember that exercise not only burns calories and tightens and tones, it also reduces stress, which can definitely help your mood, as you are busy trying to get everything done.

Shopping for loved ones is time consuming and stressful, and unfortunately, it may interfere with your workout schedule. To alleviate this problem, consider online shopping to save time and avoid crowds. Many stores offer free shipping during the holiday season, and the choices of gifts are endless on the Internet. However, if you are a hands-on person and must go to the mall, park your car in one of the last spots in the lot to get some added walking time. Additionally, do a few laps around the mall before committing to a location for shopping. You can also go back and forth with your packages to the car to get increased exercise and avoid straining your back and/or neck by holding heavy items. It might also help to wear a pedometer to keep track of your steps.

There are other ways to incorporate extra physical activity into your routine this time of year. Instead of taking the elevator, opt for the stairs. Also, you can burn more calories by dancing at your holiday party and having fun! You can also work out with family members or play with your kids to incorporate both family and fitness. Winter sports, such as ice skating and skiing, are both social and active, and they will keep you trim during the winter season. Another way to stay focused is to sign up for a race or event and begin training in December. This will keep you motivated to continue with your exercise routine and to push yourself.

As far as food, absolutely enjoy your favorites during the holiday season, but remember to know your limits! Before going to a party, eat a healthy meal or snack at home so you don’t wind up eating a lot of junk. Also, drink plenty of water to maintain fullness. Remember to watch your alcohol intake, because cocktails can add up to quite a lot of calories, plus it can disrupt your sleep and increase your appetite. Consider hosting your own family party so you can be in charge of what is served; that way you can add some healthful options to the menu.

It is also important to try to exercise and to eat right while traveling. You can do pushups, wall sits, and squats in your hotel room. Many hotels have spas and gyms, and if the weather is nice, you can go for a walk or run outside. While dining out, stay away from the bread before the meal and watch your portion sizes.

Give yourself the gift of fitness and health this holiday season. Maintain your weight and your sanity! Happy Holidays!

Sitting-Down

Sitting Ourselves to Death

According to Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, “sitting is the new smoking.”  Research tends to support the claim that prolonged sitting increases the risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and depression.  We spend a large part of our day sitting – either at work, behind the wheel of our car, or in front of the television. In fact, it seems like we are sitting ourselves to death!

Sitting contributes to organ damage, brain damage, muscle degeneration, and leg disorders. This is because the body tends to turn itself off when we sit for long periods of time. When we stand and are moving, we activate the systems in the body that process sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Insulin is involved in these systems and it is responsible for transporting fuel into the cells, which decreases the risk of obesity and diabetes.  With prolonged sitting, muscles burn less fat and blood flow is slower, making it easier for the heart to get clogged with fatty acids. Blood flow to the brain is also slower, which results in decreased delivery of oxygen to the brain thereby causing decreased function. Additionally, there is a correlation between prolonged sitting and weight gain. This increases inflammation and contributes to hormonal changes in the body, both of which are correlated to cancer.

When we sit for too long, we are apt to have a plethora of aches and pains. Strained necks and shoulders are very common because we are holding our phones to our ears or we are working at a computer in a hunched position. Additionally, more pressure is placed on the spine in a seated position and it is possible to lose flexibility in the disks. This contributes to back pain and possible herniated disks.  Further, sitting may cause tight hips and a limited range of motion, in addition to weak glutes, since they are not being recruited for movement. Lastly, sitting is linked to weak bones, osteoporosis, and poor circulation in the legs, which is correlated to varicose veins.  Basically, our bodies were designed to be active, and when we sit down and stop moving for long periods of time, the body starts to shut down.

One of the major concerns about sitting is that going to the gym or participating in physical activity doesn’t seem to decrease or reverse the risk from sitting. Research suggests that only through sitting less can we decrease the negative effects of sitting. So even running 10 miles every day will not reverse the negative effects of being at a desk all day. Sitting and activity are two distinct behaviors that influence our health independently. So what can we do?

While eliminating sitting from our daily routine is impossible, we can improve our health and decrease the negative effects of excessive sitting by consciously getting up from our desks and moving around. First, if you are aware of how much you are sitting every day, you can attempt to reduce the amount of time each week. Try to stand up or walk around every 30 minutes – set an alarm if you need to be reminded!  Additionally, try stretching at your desk and learning the proper sitting mechanics to improve your posture while sitting in order to decrease the risk of muscle strains.

You can take it even further by investing in a standing desk or a portable standing workstation. Find ways to move around more at your job. For example, take the stairs or park your car far away from the entrance of your building to increase the time you are on your feet. It is time to take a stand for your health and minimize unnecessary health risks. Start the New Year on your feet!

Reviews.com recently published an in-depth review of standing desks. Check our their recommendations at

The Best Standing Desk

weight-training

Why We Need Weight Training

A well-rounded exercise program is comprised of both cardiovascular aerobic exercise and resistance training. Many people still focus only on aerobic conditioning for weight loss and health, while ignoring the benefits of resistance training. Resistance training is important for both athletic performance and general fitness.  A well-rounded fitness program includes strength training to improve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength as well as aerobic exercise to improve heart and lung fitness, flexibility and balance.

Resistance training (also called strength training or weight training) is defined as using resistance to muscular contraction in order to increase the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles. It incorporates the use of free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, and body weight. Resistance training is based on the concept that the muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when required.

There are many physical and mental benefits to resistance training. It improves tone and strength of muscles, which protects joints from injury. It also may help prevent cognitive decline and improve mood by increasing self-esteem, helping to prevent depression, improving body image, and decreasing insomnia. Resistance training improves mobility and balance, increases flexibility & stamina, improves posture, and decreases the risk for injury. Additionally it prevents osteoporosis, sarcopenia, lower-back pain, and other disabilities. More recent research demonstrates that resistance training may positively affect risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These include insulin resistance, resting metabolic rate, glucose metabolism, blood pressure, body fat, and gastrointestinal transit time. Lastly, building and maintaining muscle is good for your metabolism and helps with weight loss and weight maintenance.

In order to become stronger and build muscle, resistance training must be done on a consistent basis. Most guidelines for physical activity recommend that adults do muscle strengthening activities at least two days each week. It is not necessarily required that the resistance is heavy; it just has to be controlled and precise for all the major muscle groups.

Proper form is essential in resistance training to avoid injury. Before starting any type of training, it is recommended to work with a qualified personal trainer who will assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as help you create an exercise program to reach your goals, both safely and effectively.

the-arena

The Un-Scratchable Itch

Many times I see patients that have been unsuccessfully treated for one or several conditions, and are coming for a second (sometimes 3rd or 4th!) opinion. I had an interesting case of a patient who had been treated for a very common type of heel pain (plantar fasciitis), but had minimal improvement. She had an array of typically very good treatments (stretching, shoe gear modification, oral medication, injections, physical therapy, etc.), but her symptoms persisted. She had pain in her heel and arch, and the pain was sometimes present in the morning or after periods of rest (typical of a plantar fasciitis), but also occurred at seemingly random times throughout the day. Sometimes walking/running would illicit no pain, sometimes it was unbearable. The pain was often burning in nature, sometimes sharp. After going through a thorough history, the patient also related an interesting tidbit… she had an annoying, persistent itch on the bottom of her foot, and had seen foot specialists and dermatologists and been treated with various creams but to no avail. The itch was present without any other dermatological signs or symptoms, and nothing seemed to relieve it.

the-arena-1Many patients will have very clearly identifiable symptoms and exacerbating factors which they can lucidly describe, and that correlate nicely with a specific condition. Sometimes, however, the patient has a difficult time describing the nature of their pain, and exactly what makes it worse (or what makes it feel better). While the patient above had obvious symptoms, they did not fit nicely into any diagnosis box. I see this difficulty many times when people are dealing with pathology involving nerves.

The above patient was examined, and sure enough a specific examination of an area known as the Tarsal Tunnel elicited a shooting, electrical type pain into her heel and arch, and also increased the “itchiness”. Is this case, the patient was not suffering from a plantar fasciitis, and had no dermatological reason for the itch, but was suffering from a condition known as tarsal tunnel syndrome.

Many people have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome. Tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS) is a similar phenomenon that occurs in the foot. The tarsal tunnel refers to a specific anatomical area on the inside part of the foot and ankle. There is a specific ligament in the area (the laciniate ligament) that attaches from the medial malleolus of the tibia, to the heel bone (calcaneus). Thus a tunnel is formed with the ligament as the roof, and the bones as the floor of the tunnel. All the tendons, arteries, nerves and veins that travel to the bottom (plantar) foot pass through this tunnel. The main nerve passing through this area is known as the tibial nerve, which eventually branches to provide innervation to the bottom of the foot. For a variety of reasons, the tibial nerve can get compressed which will then cause pain to the bottom of the foot. This pain can present very differently for different patients, but most commonly will cause burning, or electrical type pain. Many times, it can also be associated with numbness, tingling, or hard to describe sensations which we refer to as paresthesias. In this particular case, the patient’s pain and “itching” sensation were both caused by a tarsal tunnel syndrome.

TTS can be a diagnosis of exclusion; where everything else is ruled out as a cause of pain. A focused exam needs to be performed over the tarsal tunnel, including percussing the area and looking for radiating pain or paresthesias to the heel, arch or toes (referred to as Tinel’s Sign) or, (less commonly) Valleix Sign, which is pain radiating up the leg. Physical exam and x-rays will often show a foot and ankle position which can increase pressure on the nerve (many times a patient will have a flat foot with excessive pronation which keeps the laciniate ligament taut, increasing pressure on the nerve). An MRI may be useful if there is a structure impinging on the nerve such as a ganglion cyst, accessory muscle belly, or inflammation of nearby tendons. Many times, an MRI is inconclusive, and a patient will be sent for a neurological exam known as an NCV/EMG to evaluate for nerve pathologies. This is often an important test, as it will also determine if there is nerve pathology from any were else in the lower extremity. Sometimes, compression of a nerve originating in the back can lead to similar foot pain and strange sensations.

Treatment for the condition can also vary based on the etiology. If it is simply a positional issue, proper shoe gear and custom orthotics and avoiding compression on the area simply will help. Many times, a topical or oral anti-inflammatory medication is needed. A doctor may need to use steroid injections as well. In cased when there is a mass in the tarsal tunnel, this will typically need to be removed surgically to provide relief. Sometimes, a surgical release of the ligament and any strictures around the nerve is necessary.

So, if you have pain or funny feelings, and are being treated for a foot condition with limited success, make sure you inquire about tarsal tunnel syndrome.

fascial-manipulation-sapiens-potens-est-manus-85304718

Why Your Workouts May Not Be Working

Have you ever exercised and felt that you were not achieving the results you expected? Or worse, have you developed pain or worsened an already painful condition with exercise that was supposed to help? Have you been told by a trainer or physical therapist that your glutes are not firing or you have poor balance and you just can’t correct the problem?

These are very common issues that I hear about in my practice that can have multiple causes. The first thing to examine is the program itself – what exercises are being done and are they even appropriate for the individual based on their health history and present condition. Very often I see people doing exercises that they should definitely not be doing because they are harmful and will cause injury. Unfortunately, I also see many trainers and specialists prescribing these exercises.

The second thing to examine is form – are the exercises being done properly. A good exercise, if done incorrectly, can be a bad exercise. Always be meticulous with form. The purpose of exercise should be to improve our health, whether the goal is increasing strength and endurance, rehabilitating tissue, or correcting movement patterns.

The above are the very obvious reasons and should always be ruled out first. But if the exercises are appropriate and being done with correct form and the issue is still present, there may be another less obvious culprit. This hidden hijacker of a good workout results could be fascial tension.

You may have heard of fascia recently, as it getting much attention due to research, which it deserves. Fascia is connective tissue that literally wraps and connects every structure in the body. To visualize this, imagine removing every organ, muscle and bone. If we were to leave all the fascia intact, we would have a 3D outline of the entire body – a completely continuous web.

Fascia transmits energy and force, in addition to holding everything together. We often think of muscles contracting independently to perform an action. For example, flexing our elbow we attribute to the biceps and brachialis muscles. But in reality, it is much more than that. Tension is created throughout the entire arm and shoulder, into the trunk and down to the hand through fascial connection. Other muscles are also performing at different levels in order to stabilize the arm. So really, everything is working, but at different levels of intensity.

We often think of muscle contraction generating force in the tendons (which attach the muscles to bones) in order to produce a movement. Studies have recently demonstrated that only 70% of the generated force of a muscle contraction is transmitted to the tendons. The other 30% is transmitted outward to the fascia surrounding the muscle by way of attachments along its entire length. Because fascia is completely continuous throughout the body, this force is transmitted to other muscles and structures. This shows that when a muscle acts, it is doing much more than its attributed movement. It is communicating with and working in conjunction with other muscles along a line.

Fascia is also a sensory organ. Another recent discovery is that there there are more sensory nerve endings in the fascia than there are in the muscle. These nerve endings provide information to the brain and spinal cord about position, tension/stretch and pressure – a sense of where we are in space and what is happening to keep us there. Keep in mind that most of this is happening without us even realizing it.

Fascia is made up of different layers that need to slide over each other in order for movement to happen, and in order to have accurate information exchange with the nervous system. If there is restriction of this sliding, usually due to a densification of hyaluronic acid, the substance that lubricates the fascial layers, overall movement can become restricted. Muscle activity can become inhibited due to the lack of efficient communication through the nerve endings that live in the altered fascia.

The densifications causing this altered function can be a result of old trauma/injuries, surgeries, scars or repetitive strain. For example, an old ankle sprain that didn’t heal properly may subtly cause dysfunction either locally in the foot/ankle, or above in the knee, hip, pelvis or even in the shoulder on the opposite side of the body. These densifications may be difficult to detect because they are often found in different areas than where the symptoms manifest. In this case it would be helpful to be evaluated by a professional who understands this process to properly determine the dysfunction and correct it.

Fascial Manipulation is a diagnostic and treatment system developed by the Stecco family in Italy. It sees the body as an interconnected network of points along the fascia that make up different motion planes. The points are centers of coordination for underlying muscles. Interestingly, many of these are also acupuncture points. Densification, or dysfunction, in these points can alter the muscle activity. Fascial Manipulation practitioners find these areas of densification and remove them through a very specific, deep massage technique. When normal sliding is restored to these points, or centers of coordination, very often pain is relieved and muscles function much more effectively with less stress. It is worth noting that Fascial Manipulation has the most scientific research behind it than any other manual soft tissue technique.

Freed movement in the fascial planes leads to normal coordination of muscle activation. This can allow workout results to be more consistent with the targeted actions of exercise and desired goals. If you feel you are not getting the most out of your workout and you know you are doing the proper exercises with good form, consider a fascial evaluation.

Robert Inesta, DC, L.Ac, CCSP