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Over 30 percent of muscular force generated is due to the fascia, without it we would not exist, yet for most of the last century it was believed to of limited importance and was hardly included in anatomical drawings and medical texts.  It’s role in human movement is incredibly important, those superhuman feats of strength that we read about are due primarily to the fascia.  The resurgence in old strongman exercises such as using kettle-bells is due to the fact that these exercises have an effect on the fascia. 

Fascia plays an important role in the support and function of our bodies, because it attaches to and surrounds all structures. Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together. It is the 3-D spider like web of fibrous, gluey, and wet proteins that hold about 70 trillion body cells together in their correct place. Fascia maybe very fine and elastic, very watery and slippery allowing smooth sliding of tissues or very densely woven, it covers and interpenetrates every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. These fascial connections reach to the very interior of the cell, all the way to the nucleus.

The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption.  In this way we can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the thread in a sweater.

In it’s normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed and wavy in configuration. It has the ability to stretch and move without restriction.  When we experience physical or emotional trauma, scarring, or inflammation, however, the fascia may lose its pliability. It becomes tight, restricted, and a source of tension to the rest of the body.  This is termed Tensegrity.

Tensegrity, tensional integrity or floating compression, is a structural principle based on the use of isolated components in compression inside a net of continuous tension, in such a way that the compressed members (usually bars or struts) do not touch each other and the prestressed tensioned members (usually cables or tendons) delineate the system spatially.{4}

The term tensegrity was coined by Buckminster Fuller in the 1960s as a portmanteau of “tensional integrity”.{5} The other denomination of tensegrity, floating compression, was used mainly by Kenneth Snelson.

Trauma, such as a fall, car accident, whiplash, surgery or just habitual poor posture and repetitive stress injuries has cumulative effects on the body.  The changes trauma causes in the fascial system influences comfort and function of our body.

Fascial restrictions can apply excessive pressure to tissues causing a variety of symptoms of symptoms; pain, headaches or restriction of motion.  This restrictions affect our flexibility and joint stability, and sporting/ballistic movements of the human body. How far we can hurl a stone, how high we can jump, and how long we can run depend not only on the contraction of our muscle fibres, but also to a large degree on how well the elastic recoil properties of our fascial network are supporting these often complex movements.

Our mobility, integrity, and resilience are determined in large part by how well hydrated our fascia is. In fact, what we call “stretching a muscle” is actually the fibres of the connective tissue (collagen) gliding along one another on the mucous-y proteins called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs for short). GAGs, depending on their chemistry, can glue layers together when water is absent, or allow them to skate and slide on one another when hydrated.  This is one of the reasons most injuries are fascial.  If we get “dried out” we are more brittle and are at much greater risk for erosion, a tear, or a rupture.   According to Thomas Myers, the creator of the Anatomy Trains concept when we do heavy exercise we are driving the water out of the tissue in the same way that if we step on a wet beach we push the water out of the sand, and when we pick up our foot the water seeps back into that sand.  Hence, the rhythm of our fitness regimen should include some rest. When we take the strain off of the tissues, like a sponge they will suck up that water and be ready for more exercise.

Movement gets the hydration out to the tissue, but that movement needs to be varied.  This means variation not just of the movements themselves, but also variation of pace.  Not only does moving constantly in the same ways and in the same planes put us at further risk for joint erosion ( osteoarthritis), but we are also dehydrating the fascia in a particular pattern, thus setting us up for that brittle tissue that injuries love so much.

What’s more fascia is one of our most important sensory organs with between six to ten times more sensory nerve receptors than the muscles.  This makes fascia a system of proprioception – i.e.  the ability to sense the position and location and orientation and movement of the body and its partswhich enables full body control of movement.   Therefore, well-hydrated and supple fascia is crucial for maintaining our bodies optimum alignment and function, maintaining those optimum settings will keep small problems from snowballing into larger ones, keep injuries from becoming chronic issues, and keep us mobile and functional for longer through life, as well as helping to avoid some surgeries and joint replacements.

Fascial treatment using Myofascial Correction™

2 Findley, T. 2011. Fascia Research From a Clinician/Scientist’s Perspective, International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
3 Guimberteau, J. 2005.The Sliding Mechanics of the Subcutaneous Structures in Man Illustration of a Functional Unit: The Microvacuoles, Studies of the Académie Nationale de Chuirurgie

4 Gómez-Jáuregui, V (2010). Tensegrity Structures and their Application to Architecture. Servicio de Publicaciones Universidad de Cantabria, p.19. ISBN 8481025755.

5 Fuller, Buckminster. “Tensegrity,” Portfolio and Art News Annual, No. 4 (1961), pp. 112–127, 144, 148.