The Fascia System
Many people complain of pain and health issues but are often unaware that a lot of these stem from problems with the fascial system. In the past 15 years, multiple articles have appeared that target fascia as an important component of treatment in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation.
But what is it, really? How does it affect the body and its functions? Why is it important to consider in your overall health?
Fascia, in Latin, means band or bandage. It is also called connective tissue. In as early as two weeks after conception, the fascial system develops as a 3-dimensional web. It is made up of collagen and elastin fibers surrounded by a gel-like material.
Collagen gives fascia its strength while elastin fibers provide extensibility, and resilience. The fascia covers every structure of the body, creating a structural continuity of form and function to every tissue and organ.
From the embryological perspective, the fascia originates in the mesoderm, although according to some authors this connective network can be partially found in the neural crest (ectoderm), with particular reference to the cranial and cervical area. As the fetus develops, muscles, bones, and organs are formed within this web.
The fascia provides the framework for the entire body. It helps support, as well as, protect organs, muscle groups and essentially the entire body as a unit. The fascial system interpenetrates and surrounds all organs, muscles, bones and nerve fibers, endowing the body with a functional structure, and providing an environment that enables all body systems to operate in an integrated manner.
Fascial System Details
The fascial system consists of three layers of connective tissue that move and glide over one another. The three layers are:
Superficial fascia. This is the loose, fibrous layer found under the skin. It also envelops organs, glands, nerves and blood vessels. The superficial fascia is understood as a ‘whole loose layer of subcutaneous tissue lying superficial to the denser layer of fascia profunda'.
Deep fascia. In contrast to the superficial fascia, the deep fascia (fascia profunda) is dense and fibrous tissue. It not only envelopes but penetrates deep into muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels. The deep fascia lies under the superficial fascia and surrounds individual muscles or divides groups of muscles into compartments.
Part of the deep fascia are the fascicles, tissue compartments that divide up groups of muscles. This deep layer of fascia also includes:
Tendons that connect muscles to bone
Ligaments that connect bone to bone
Joint capsules that surround the joints
Aponeurosis that are layers of broad flat tendons
Visceral Fascia. This layer wraps around organs so they are suspended within their cavities; and, keeps the various organs in their cavities, groups them into substructures and protects each organ by surrounding it in 2 layers of connective tissue.
In summary, the fascial system intertwines through every part of the body.
The Fascial System and Kinetic Chain
The fascia, however, is more than a connective element through the body and its organs. It plays an important, supportive role in the kinetic chain and how the body moves.
The Kinetic chain is a system composed of the nerves, muscles, bones and of course, connective tissues or fascia. In a kinetic chain, movement at one part produces or affects movement at another part in the kinetic link.
The fascial system makes it possible for a person to perform activities from something as simple as sitting to standing, to being able to engage in sports or play a musical instrument.
What is amazing about the fascia and the fascial system is that it is not a system composed of separate coverings. It is one continuous form enveloping the entire body without breaks. What does this mean? It means that each part of the body is connected to every other part.
Each Part of the Body Is Connected To Every Other Part
In plain language, this means that because the fascial system connects body parts to each other; one cannot have something happen to one part and not feel its effect on some other part of the body.
If a person experiences a fascial distortion or adhesion due to abuse, overuse, neglect or accident, it can cause a change in the kinetic chain. The manifestations of this can include poor blood flow, weaker nerve impulses, limited flexibility and range of motion, pain, and a host of other physical ailments.
Understanding the fascia and its role in the kinetic chain enables us to effectively treat pain and other ailments. By identifying the source of dysfunction within the kinetic chain, it is possible to treat the source of pain and prevent symptoms from reoccurring.
The Fascia System - Why It Is Important To You
Most of the time, we are unaware of fascia, but it becomes noticeable to us when it loses stiffness or becomes too stiff. This can happen after surgery if the fascia has been cut or when healing includes a scar. It also can be felt due to a repetitive movement. As with muscles, it can be pulled and strained.
Fascia specialists claim that treating these fascial restrictions with a variety of methods, including proprietary bodywork methods and/or specialized tools, is an important aspect of overcoming these chronic and painful conditions.
In mainstream medicine, fascia is rarely considered in isolation as the cause of chronic pain disorders. One exception is plantar fasciitis, a painful and relatively common condition in which the fascia that is responsible for maintaining the arch in your foot is inflamed. The inflammation is directly attributed to stiffening and a decrease in the flexibility of the fascia.
The Mayo Clinic references fascia when describing myofascial pain syndrome ("myo" is short for muscle), but the direct role of fascial changes in causing pain and structural changes in conditions such as chronic lower back pain, headaches, and cellulite is less clear. Still, fascia like most connective tissue in the body stiffens with age, overuse, and injury.
Fascial adhesions are more common than most would expect, you might call it by another name, muscle-knot. They are so common that in 2015, $15 Billion was spent on massage therapy. This means that millions of people have issues with their fascia.
Everyone can benefit from knowing how to perform some basic techniques to maintain their own fascia. Anyone can learn these techniques. Some of them are; Self-Myofascial-Release (SMR), Self-Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) and Resistance Stretching (RFST).
Due to different anatomical locations and to the qualities of the fascial tissue, it is important to recognize that different modalities of approach have to be taken into consideration when considering treatment options.
If your goals are to maintain optimal health, your fascial system should be considered. Let me help you understand how this intriguing system could be the answer you need.
If you have questions about how I might be able to help you, please reach out to me.
Better yet, schedule a free consultation now.