Today lets talk about one of our favourite topics FASCIA. There’s currently a lot more research coming out these days and we’ve done a lot digging around this week to get the latest goss and scientific news. It’s important to note the people doing this pioneering research that T .Meyer’s, Carla Stecco and Robert Sheilp to name a few have done on the topic of fascia and connective tissue.
So with that in mind read on!
Today we are jumping right in to the deep end and taking an in depth anatomical look at the fascia of the body.
To keep things simple, we are going to refer to the fascia as the connective tissues of the body.
If your new to the topic of Fascia please head on over and have a read of our introductory blog post about Fascia : The Wonderful World of Fascia
Cool now you’re up to speed.
*As always this article is an educational tool not a self diagnosis sheet okay!, So if you experience any symptoms or have reoccurring pain it’s important to see your health professional to get it double checked*
FASCIA AN IN DEPTH LOOK AT THIS MAGICAL ORGAN
Fascia is one of the most under researched organs in the body. Yes it is an organ.
Who doesn’t love food? Exactly, so lets use food analogies to explain fascia!
You’re a sausage (no pun intended) your bones, organs, brain, muscles are the meat of the sausage and your fascia is the lining of that sausage. It connects all your muscles, organs etc together like a chain of sausages, but rather than everything being in a line, there are links everywhere.
Another way you can look at it is like a piece of marbled steak. So everyone knows that you have a skeleton. It is common to believe that you then have your tendons which attach to the muscle. Technically that’s right but its a little bit more intricate. Your tendon is a tough tissue that fans throughout the muscle fibers much like a good piece of marbled steak. This then leads to the tendon on the other side of the muscle. So rather than tendon – muscle – tendon, they actually blend in together. This happens all the way throughout your entire body.
You can see how it holds everything! And everything sits in fascial pockets. Your fascia then intertwines and winds around the body to form “fascial lines”.
So what’s the big deal?
Well since your connective tissue holds everything in your body, it’s kind of a big deal! It a part of everything you do!
The reason it isn’t addressed is because it was removed from the body before people got to dissect the cadavers. So it’s literally been ignored for 100s of years. But thanks to the group of pioneering individuals mentioned before, the research is getting done and new findings are being discovered.
What’s it made of?
Connective tissue is primarily made up of water, proteoglycans and tissue. It’s hydrated by water and hyaluronic acid. There is also a new cell that has been recently discovered in the fascia by Carla Stecco (A German researcher specialising in the cutting-edge discovery of fascia). Carla identified a new type of cell called fasciacytes. These fasciacytes are responsible for facilitating the gliding motion between the fascial layers and are “devoted to producing the hyaluronan‐rich extracellular matrix”- (Carla Stecco, Caterina Fede, Veronica Macchi, Andrea Porzionato, Lucia Petrelli , Carlo Biz, Robert Stern Raffaele De Caro, 2018, Abstract exert).
Fascia is compiled in sheets that glide over one another. It therefore requires a significant amount of hydration (hyaluronan‐rich extracellular matrix) to be able to glide across itself and the muscle tissue.
Robert Schleip (another famous German scientist) has discovered among many other fascia- nating things, that fascia consists of fibroblasts and collagen matrix.
Fibroblasts are a part of the connective tissues. They are essentially what makes your connective tissue tighter. Fibroblasts do a lot of the grunt work when healing the connective tissues of the body. According to new research these fibroblasts become overactive during times of immobility or injury. This causes Fibroblasts to over produce collagen fibres within the connective tissue. The fascia then basically becomes overcrowded and matted.
Overcrowding of the Fibroblasts dehydrates the connective tissue, therefore hindering it’s ability to glide freely.
When the connective tissue is stretched or stimulated by physical activity or manual therapy the hyaluronic acid and water flows back in and the fibroblasts respond by relaxing.
How does connective tissue work?
Basically, your connective tissue is a giant morph suit like a spidy suit which it is made up of collagen fibres. It moves in a gliding motion over each layer.
If you have a fascial restriction in one area, it can pull on all the other fascia in the body. Having tight connective tissue in one area effects the rest of the body in numerous ways because well it holds everything.
Let’s have a look at an example:
Take Joe Blogs here:
He sit’s at his desk all day. What’s happening to Joe’s connective tissue? It’s tightening! Through the chest and front of the body. This doesn’t stop here either it travels all the way down the body. Soon Joe will have pain and stiffness in his upper back but also his lower back and gluteals hips and legs.
PLUS he’s sitting there like that for 6 plus hours what do you think the fibroblasts are doing? They’re multiplying and getting tighter with the prolonged period of immobility.
Why and How does connective tissue cause pain?
Like everything else in the body your connective tissue has receptors that it uses to communicate. One of the biggest reasons your connective tissue is so sensitive to pain is that:
- Fascia has 6 – 10 times more afferent free nerve endings than muscles present so it perceives things as a lot more intensively.
- Robert Schleip discovered that TGF-b1 is linked to our stress response in our body. Research is showing that there is now a neurochemical link between your emotions and how your fascia responds via your sympathetic nervous system. ( Does Fascia hold memories?2014 Elsevier,18,259-265)
What’s the best remedy for Myofascial pain?
It is important to note that whilst there are many ways to assist the connective tissue there are fundamental differences between techniques and their effectiveness. Fascia does not require a lot of pressure or force to loosen, rather it is more important that the pressure to be applied correctly.
There are a couple of specialised massage techniques which can give good relief of connective tissue tension.
Fascial Release Techniques
MFR (myofascial release) is a gentle stretching pressure that is applied to release the stuck connective tissue.
ROLFING– is a slow sustained deep pressure that helps to push the fluid out of the fascia like towel, just wringing it out. Once the pressure is released studies have showed that the water and hyaluronic acid count is higher in the fascia than it is prior to a ROLFING treatment.
Massage also helps to stimulates the fibroblast cells to produce new collagen within the connective tissue and this helps reduce pain and tension within 3 days.
Myofascial trigger point release VS Deep Tissue Massage
“Trigger point therapy is sustained pressure at a single point where as Myofascial Release is more of a sustained stretching of tissue between two spots.”- ROLFING institute.
Deep-tissue massage works on the deep layers of muscle. “If the fascia around these muscles is restricted it will not allow the muscle it encases to relax into proper function”- Amy delvanthal.
Other things that can help connective tissue
Other things you can do that have scientifically shown to improve your connective tissue is a good old-fashioned workout and staying well hydrated drinking 2 litres of water per day as our bodies are 68% water.
So now your all up to date with the latest science behind this fascia-nating organ.
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*Carla Stecco Caterina Fede Veronica Macchi Andrea Porzionato Lucia Petrelli Carlo Biz Robert Stern Raffaele De Caro, 25th March 2018, The fasciacytes: A new cell devoted to fascial gliding regulation, Wiley Online Library, 05/20219. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ca.23072
*The Mysterious World Under the Skin Documentary- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWU_DnC9t4I
*Book Review of Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body- https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Thomas_Findley/publication/289814802_Fascia_The_Tensional_Network_of_the_Human_Body_The_science_and_clinical_applications_in_manual_and_movement_therapy/links/584bd49e08ae4bc8992be8ae/Fascia-The-Tensional-Network-of-the-Human-Body-The-science-and-clinical-applications-in-manual-and-movement-therapy.pdf
*Fascia Magnified 25x- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzy8-wQzQMY
*Fascia Research Congress: The discovery of a new cell & new ways to improve well being- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V26LZgqDPgU