(This is the final installment of a 3-part post. The initial post was Fascia. Fascia. Fascia.)
How do we see fascia now?
Some exciting new discoveries about fascia have been made in the recent years.
Thanks to the bodyworker and anatomist Tom Myers, we are starting to study anatomy in relation to the continuous web of fascia that suspends it. Through dissection, Myers has show that there are “lines” both structural (existing in the tissue) and functional (involved with movement) throughout the whole body. Myers’ book, Anatomy Trains, delves into this different way of studying anatomy. This is an important shift in understanding because previously, the human body was viewed as a series of systems (respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, etc.) instead of collectively as a whole structure.
Thanks to Robert Schleip’s work at the University of Ulm, Germany, research now suggests that fascia has the ability to actively contract. Historically fascia has been viewed as passive relative to movement. In other words, the movement seen in fascia was only in direct result to the movement of the structures it surrounds. Schleip’s research shows that fascia contains cells that contract and relax in response to mechanical pressure or distortion.
Helene Langevin, a research professor of neurology from University of Vermont, hypothesizes that “connective tissue functions as a body-wide mechanosensitive signaling network.” Langevin’s hypothesis explores three types of signals that may be communicated by fascia. In the end she posits that our understanding of medicine and treatment can change as we begin to see connective tissue as a “bridge” between pathologies in the body. Does the patient, suffering from a flare up of ulcerative colitis preceded by a two-week exacerbation of arthritis of the knee, have two distinct problems or one manifesting in two different ways?
2007 saw the First International Fascia Research Congress where scientists and clinicians meet for the first time to build bridges between what was being felt in the clinic and what was being seen in the lab. This initial congress has resulted in the means of researching touch therapies changing. Unlike being able to take a placebo for a medication, there is no placebo for massage, acupuncture, etc. Thus the paradigm of how to approach research around these fields must change. The Third International Fascia Research Congress will be held in Vancouver, B.C. in 2012.
What does this mean to you?
- The ability of fascia to glide and thus let you move is dependent on the amount of water in its ground substance. Dehydration can decrease that amount of water—drink more water.
- Fascial restrictions occur when movement decreases—move more (and if you can’t move have a bodyworker help to move your tissue).
- Fascia responds to pressure. Think about all the pressure in your gluts, tendons, ligaments of the pelvis and hip joint capsules that is created when you sit at your desk. That pressure is causing your fascia to reshape to this position—move more.
- Fascia research continues to evolve. For years, the hands of bodyworkers have understood many of the things research is now showing for—get more bodywork.
Both your fascia and I thank you for taking the time to better understand how your body works and how you can keep moving for years to come.