Fascia is connective tissue which holds the body together from head to toe. You can imagine it as a three-dimensional network of strands and fibres which enclose and pervade the body. It connects bones to muscles and separates internal organs.
In our musculoskeletal system the fascia functions as both glue and lubricant. If the fibres are smooth and elastic, we can move more easily but if they are “gummed up” or “matted”, movement becomes more difficult. If we take too little exercise, the fibres gradually stiffen. Since the fascia contains large numbers of nerve receptors, experts suspect that it is the cause of many inexplicable aches and pains.
Rediscovery of the fascia
No one paid much attention to the fascia until relatively recently, but this has all changed since the Blackroll – a cylindrical roll about 50 cm long and 10 cm wide – arrived in fitness centres and began to spread like wildfire. The Blackroll has become the iconic piece of equipment for fascia training. Unlike other forms of exercise, it enables a kind of self-massage. With the Blackroll, instead of a masseur applying pressure, pressure is applied by the individual’s own body weight. It is supposed to be useful in easing sclerosis, adhesions und matting.
With all the hype about the Blackroll, it is easy to forget that fascia training can also be done in other ways. Stretching exercises, yoga, Pilates and swinging/rocking movements are also regarded as types of fascia training.
Medicine's poor relation
From a research perspective it is not clear that fascia training brings any actual benefit. Doctors who have been asked about the issue are sceptical. Everyone agrees, however, that the fascia represents an exciting field of medicine which has been largely overlooked until now. At the same time, it remains difficult to diagnose pain in connection with the fascia. However, a number of physiotherapists who have worked with the Blackroll regard this new piece of equipment as a positive development. Used correctly, it can speed up regeneration after injury and improve mobility.
However, individuals with lymphatic or circulatory disorders, dermatitis or osteoporosis should be careful when exercising with the Blackroll. Women should also avoid some exercises during pregnancy.