Fascia is “an innervated, continuous, functional organ of stability and motion that is formed by 3-dimensional collagen matrices. This emphasizes that fascia is not a passive and merely supporting structure, but rather ‘a dynamic and mutable system" (Swanson 2013). This system manifests as different kinds of connective tissue, forming a continuous tensional network, throughout the micro- and macroscopic levels of body architecture.
It is the inter-connectedness of this tissue system that makes myofascial release , massage and bodywork therapies so holistically effective. Therapy applied in any part of the body affects the whole.
Many chronic health problems can be reflections of musculoskeletal and visceral (organ) pathology, with the fascial layers running in between, throughout and around, acting as communicative throughways. Traditional medicines believe that superficial and internal conditions are energetically intertwined due to natural connections throughout the body. Myofascial Release stimulates connective tissue, or fascial layers in the body. The fascia is what ties our body together, supports the organs, and fosters communication throughout the body.
“Fascia is connected to all other tissues of the body, microscopically and macroscopically- so that its three-dimensional collagen matrices are architecturally continuous– from head to toe, from individual cells to major organs.”
“Fascia is part of all the soft tissues of the body.”
“Fascia binds, packs, protects, envelopes and separates tissues.”
“Fascia invests and connects structures, providing the scaffolding that permits and enhances transmission forces.”
“Fascia has sensory functions, from the microscopic level (for example, individual cell-to-cell communication) to the involvement of large fascial sheets, such as the thoracolumbar fascia (TLF).”
“Fascia provides the facility for tissues to slide and glide on each other.”
“Fascia also offers a means of energy storage– acting in a spring-like manner via pre-stressed fascial structures, such as the large tendons and aponeuroses of the leg, during the gait-cycle, for example. Think of kangaroos and cats!”
“Fascia has combined qualities of strength and elasticity… of biotensegrity… resilience.”
“Fascia has important colloidal viscoelastic, elastic and plastic properties.”
“Fascia is richly innervated- participating in proprioception and sensing of pain.”
“Fascia is functional, not passive. It is dynamic and active– participating in movement and stability”
Fascia and Bodywork
Our bodies are affected by the laws of physics and respond to physical therapies. These physical therapies in turn stimulate energetic, chemical and structural changes in the body. Mechanical stimulation distorts soft tissue, altering the shapes of cells. Our cells translate mechanical force into new chemical information. When you stimulate body tissues, like a pebble dropped into water, there is a ripple effect. With regular bodywork, collagen fibers are stimulated to re-orient from a chaotic to an aligned pattern. Tissues function with improved strength and elasticity. This represents healthier connective tissue.
Our cells translate mechanical force into new chemical information. When you stimulate body tissues, like a pebble dropped into water, there is a ripple effect.
There are twelve ‘tracks’ or ‘anatomy trains‘ described by Tom Myers in 2009. These muscle chains create lines of tensional pull which, when all working together, create the frame of the human body. “Tensional forcesresulting from muscular contractions and load-demands are spread to adjacent- and distant- tissues via facial sheets, as well as by means of densified threads, strings, straps, wrappings, and rope-like connections (tendons, ligaments, retinacula etc.)” (pg. 16)
Our body gradually adapts over time, into global muscular patterns. Whether long-term work-related, or coping after an injury, these patterns can be unsound and slowly tug the body out of alignment. Improving the bio-mechanics of an area must involve improving soft-tissue health and function. However, due to the toughness of the fascial layers that interpenetrate all throughout the body, it is challenging to change or affect the health of the fascia.
Gentle but firm movement, pressure and manipulation affect a biological change in the fascia. Consistently delivered manual therapies can bring about “deformation of the collagen component” which “gives the molecules and collagen fibrils enough time to reorganize. When this pressure is applied for a long period, respecting that limit which keeps the integrity of the tissue… it affects the viscosity of the underlying substance in which the collagen fibers are immersed, increasing hydration at the site. As the collagen fibers are released, they reorganize and remodel themselves” .
Fascia is fluid-rich. Our body’s relative ability to create, sustain and manage moistureplays a role. “Fascia comprises a complex variety of bags, septa, pockets and envelopes that contain, separate and divide tissues and structures- while in many instances allowing a sliding, gliding facility that provides the basis for frictionless movementbetween soft tissue layers. This can be lost or reduced by adhesions and increased density”.
Fascia seems to adapt hydrodynamically in response to mechanical stimuli, such as compression and stretch, largely due to a sponge-like mechanical squeezing and refilling effect.
This suggests that at least some of the effects of manual therapy and exercise- relative to ease of movement, stiffness, etc.- relates to changes in the water content of connective tissues. This has potential relevance for reducing edema, as well as for increasing the water supply to under-hydrated proteins, allowing for increased extensibility of the tissues”
Many people think that symptoms of pain, stiffness, swelling, atrophy, and loss of range of motion are an unavoidable part of “the aging process.” Current science and clinical results encourage us to re-examine our beliefs in what is possible with our bodies as we age. A forward-thinking approach involves body-consciousness, an active lifestyle and integrative therapeutic care.