Fascia is Our SIXTH Sense…
WHAT IS FASCIA? If you want to geek out, watch the video below…
Before 2007, nobody paid any attention to fascia. It was not until the first international Fascia Research Congress held at Harvard University in 2007 that attention was demanded on the fascial system.
Fascia is a major player in every movement we make and in every injury we have. Fascia is a tensional fluid system made up of densely woven fibrous connective tissue that lines every muscle, bone, nerve, artery, vein, and organ including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal column.
So, WHAT IS FASCIA…. Fascia is our ligaments, tendons, aponeurosis, periosteum, peritoneum, pericardium, pleura, dura mater and meninges and more. Our fascia is every where and it is one continuous structure, without interruption, that connects every aspect of our bodies together from the top of our head to the bottom of our feet. The nervous system is embedded within our fascia making it the largest and richest sensory organ of the body. Fascia protects us, connects us and keeps our taut human shape. If you were to cut open the skin, it would reveal this pearly white spiderweb-like sheath. Cutting through this connective tissue, exposes the muscles, bones, nerves, arteries, veins and organs. So, why now? Why didn’t we learn about fascia in our medical training. Western medicine assumed that bones gave us a frame, muscles gave us movement, and fascia was just our packaging.
Fascia, in its normal healthy state, is relaxed, pliable, slippery, wet and strong that shapes us from skin to bone and from head to toe. It’s ability to stretch without restriction, independent of gravity, balances stressors and counter stressors like an anatomical emergency break creating a mobility, flexibility, resilience and proprioception. With physical and emotional trauma, scarring, and inflammation fascia looses its pliability. It becomes tight and restricted creating tension and compression. Cumulative effects of trauma, such as whiplash, surgery, repetitive stress injuries, poor posture and activities of daily living influence the function of our fascial system exerting excessive pressure causing mis-alignments, tensions and compressions. These fascial restrictions affect our mobility, flexibility and stability resulting in pain syndromes, headaches and decreased range of motions and our ability to withstand physical and emotional stress as well as performing daily activities.
Are y’all familiar with “George” the hanging skeleton? He stands tall held together with wires and moves in pretty much any direction without insult or injury. George is a great demo of how the body should and should not move. Our skeleton, however, is not held together with wire. In fact, our bones, all 206 of them, including the spinal column, are floating in a sea of connective tissue (fascia and fibrocartilage).
It was thought that our skeletal system is a continuous compressive structure like a sky scraper, where the bone above rests upon the bone below. When forced to do so, as in locking our knees allowing the femur bone to rest on top of the tibia bone, leads to wear and tear of the joint space in which it is suppose to float.
The fascia is at the helm of our internal floatation device. The fascia encases the muscles, making up the myofascial system. The myofascial system creates adjustable tension and integrity around the skeleton. There is a continuous inward pulling tensional network with the bones acting like struts allowing the bones to float. Putting strain on this tensional network causes deformity and/or injury. Continuous compression (locking our knees or propping on 1 hip) places a huge amount of pressure that can cause collapse creating unilateral or bilateral compressions much like that of unstable skyscraper. The tensional network of the myofascial system distributes the weight to the whole structure, thus, if you have pain or strain in the low back, the the source of the pain my be coming from the feet, ankle, knee, hip or shoulder. It is important to visualize the body as a whole rather than looking at each joint separately as independent structures. Many practitioners, students and physicians will chase the the pain. They are ignoring the source only putting a bandaid on the pain without treating the actual dysfunction causing the pain.
FASCIA IS ONE CONSTITUTIONAL BIOMECHANICAL REGULATORY SYSTEM
Our activities of daily living often create contracted, tense, immobilized bodies of which we may or may not be aware. Activating this tensional network distributes the force and responds to gravity expanding and opening the body all at once. Opening in one area will facilitate an opening in the rest of the body. It may be helpful to think of fascia, muscles, tendons and ligaments as one synonymous structure rather than 4 separate structures.
Let’s go deeper and talk about our cells. Our cells make up every part of our body from organs, bones, muscles, fascia, teeth and hair. Every cell in our body listens intently to what is going on around them chemically and mechanically and responds accordingly. Just as we feel ourselves lying on a hard or soft surface, so can our cells. Underlying mechanism is unknown, but cells can detect whether they are in a soft or rigid mechanical environment. In order for our bodies to function healthfully, it makes sense that ours cells need be happy. Cells that are too crowded can produce cell suicide. Cells that are stretched can stimulate reproduction. Different cells have different “happy” places. Movement of the organs and stretching can help cells to their proper environment relieving tension, pressure, compression and strain. This is why ELDOA, yoga, Pilates and manual therapy help not only soothe muscular aches and pain but also digestive problems, regulate menses and decreases anxiety.
To be continued… in the next post…