Fascia: more than just packing material!
Early anatomists considered fascia as little more than a membrane or ‘filling’ substance and dismissed it as being in the way of ‘true’ anatomy study. It would often be removed and discarded so as to look at was happening within the muscle. How wrong they were, and thankfully this thinking has changed with more and more research supporting and demonstrating the important functions that fascia undertakes.
Significance of Fascia
Reinforcing the need to look at the body as an interconnected 3 Dimensional structure
Fascia enwraps muscles fibres, which enwrap whole muscles, which in turn become tendons or ligaments, which then attach to bone – surrounding the bone itself. The fascia that surrounds the bone then goes on to connect to another muscle or internal structure, which then does the same to its neighbours. As you can see there is continuity going on from one structure to another, with all muscles, organs, nerves, and vessels attached to one another via one significant common reason – fascia.
How can I visualize Fascia?
If we can take the cross-section of a leg of lamb (apologies to those who may find this reference unappealing) as an example, Fascia is the marbly bit that separates one muscle from the other. If you go one step further and try to pull the muscle off the bone, fascia is the cobweb like tissue that stretches between the muscle and bone, or within the muscle itself.
So what can go wrong?
It is through this network of interconnections that the fascial system draws its importance.
Fascia is largely non-living and it is through the movement of muscles that its fluid quality is maintained. If for some reason mobility is compromised due to trauma or lack of use then directional pulls on fascial sheets or the ability of the fascia of one muscle to move on another may be limited or completely impaired.
Imagine you have a fall and injure your right leg, and as a result you limp for a few weeks, this limping will be altering the natural ‘function’ of your walking pattern. Your left hip may rise higher than your right to compensate. Your head may also thrust forward to balance your hips. Imagine if you were to just go on with this pattern and slowly over time it ‘healed’, in such a way that a new pattern was put in the place of your original. It is here that the problems arise.
Fascia which links all the segments of the muscular system when the body is healthy, may also reshape the body when it is pulled out of alignment. Visualize our example of the injured leg, as the patterns push the body out of alignment the fascia being elastic will take on the newfound limitations of movement and posture. This may create a new sense of what it may feel to be standing “up right” or moving forward.
So what can we do about it?
- Posture Correction
- Specific soft tissue therapy: Myofascial Release
- Stretching, particularly dynamic stretching