Under My Skin Part II
My clients who have known me for some time know that I've been a novice wood worker for several years. Working with wood, be it making cedar strip kayaks or cutting boards, has some lessons for the human body, if one notices.
Remember the stickiness of collagen I mentioned in Part I? Collagen as a molecule is “leggy” with branches that grab on to other molecules around it. Remember also that collagen is literally everywhere in the body. The honeycombed-like scaffolding that gives home to our fat cells looks just like the fascial scaffolding around our muscle cells too. Nature loves patterns, and uses them across species and parts, widely.
So if the collagen in fascial scaffolding is what separates each muscle cell and each fat cell, and it covers each organ and bone and ligament and tendon, how should we regard it, now that we know about it?
My husband at the time made beautiful cutting boards for friends and family a couple of years ago and needed a hand in the glue-up process. He had these lovely blocks of maple, cherry and a little walnut glued together in variegated strips and needed a hand quickly spreading the white wood glue in between them before clamping them together for a night to adhere.
It got me thinking about the collagenous basis of glue, and what is needed for a good glue-up. Of course, the glue, pressure and time. In this case, the clamps provide the pressure. Regarding time, if I were to unscrew the clamps and peek to see if the glue had set too early by pulling a couple of the wood strips on our cutting board apart, we likely wouldn’t be able to get the two pieces back together unless we scraped all the old glue and reapplied new, reclamped and gave a proper amount of time. The chemical bond of the glue molecules would break apart.
Every day I see people in my office with adhesions or “stuck parts” somewhere in the body. I have them myself. We all do, somewhere. Our parts are supposed to move, to slide against other neighboring parts inside us. So why do we get conditions like sciatica and pseudo-sciatica, the pain in the butt that nags and aches down the leg?
I keep coming back to what it takes for a good glue-up. Stickiness, time and pressure. The gluteal muscles are the perfect place for this to happen. We sit, providing pressure. We sit for long periods, providing time. We know we have the glue inside us, surrounding each separate part.
An experienced massage therapist knows that it’s not just about pushing on the tissue, but lifting it, too, like separating glued up parts so that fluid can flow between them again and they can slide against their neighbors like they should.
I’ll write more on that fluid and it’s dynamic role in our health and well-being at another time. But in the meantime, there is much we can do to prevent ourselves from “gluing-up”. Get up and move! Forget isolating muscles when you stretch, reach high and feel a stretch from your arm, through the arm pit, down your side and into the hip. Western medicine loves to isolate areas as if each works in a vacuum; don’t fall into an isolationist’s trap of stretching just quads or just calves without thought of the fascial lines that connect these parts up to your neck and head and down to the heel.
Here’s another aspect of the glue-up: dilution. We all know that we can add water to Elmer’s glue and lessen its sticking power. When we are dehydrated, the body will take what water we do have and use it for life-sustaining functions, not performance of the large intestines or of skeletal muscles. Adding more water to one’s diet, more than is necessary for survival, will serve to dilute the sticky nature of our collagen, “lube” the surfaces within us and help our immune cells reach every nook and cranny to protect us. Chemists have a saying, “The solution to pollution is DILUTION.” It applies to us, as well. So keep your parts “juicy,” keep moving, and go with the flow!
Is the owner of The Good Health Collective and has been a massage therapist since 2001.