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The 411 on Fascia: What is it and Why is it So Vital to Keep it Healthy?

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Fascia is a specialized system of connective tissue that has an appearance similar to a spider's web, citrus membranes, or even, in a way, a sweater. In places, fascia is thin and as translucent as saran wrap. In other places, it is very thick and densely woven. This tissue 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. 

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

Here are a few fun facts you may not know about fascia:

  • fascia is elastic

  • fascia is intelligent

  • fascia gives us our human shape

  • fascia has a role in intercellular communication

Fascia gets its elasticity from elastin. It gets its intelligence from its investment of neurotransmitters (the worker bees sending information to and from your brain). Until the last 10 years or so, Rolfers relied on personal experience and forensic science to tell us what (little) we knew about fascia. Only relatively recently has the scientific community become invested in the function of fascia and the potential of myofascial research. 

Because fascia is both elastic and intelligent we, as myofascial therapists, can help affect the tone and quality of fascial tissue through our specific techniques. And because fascia is responsible for the shape of our bodies, Rolfing helps reshape biomechanical connections in the body at every level. 

Among the many amazing discoveries about fascia is its role in intercellular communication --in controlling cellular function.  This includes cellular respiration, muscle contraction, capillary dilation, etc.  Our bodies are composed of billions of cells.  Our nerves only contact a portion of them.  How then do the cells that have no direct contact with our nervous system receive commands to function?  The answer is fascia.  

Thanks to advances in microscopic imagery technology, we now have a greater understanding of the structure of fascia and its various components.  That has allowed us a better understanding of its functions -- to include the transmission of electrical signals at speeds faster than nerve tissue is capable of.  If fascia is restricted, these signals cannot get through to the cells waiting for commands.  Additionally, recent research has shown that the majority of our nerve endings occur within the fascial extracellular matrix itself. This further confirms the fascial system's role in the healthy function of our bodies.

Now we see the significance of fascial restrictions:  Restricting the flow of electrical commands and nutrients to cells and waste away from them.  Similarly, we can also see the significance of disregarding our fascia.

It is worth noting that trauma, inflammatory responses and/or surgical procedures create myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc.). That's ONE FULL TON of pressure! Because of the relative disregard for myofascial tissues by the predominating medical community, a high percentage of people suffering with pain and/or lack of motion may be having fascial problems, but are not properly diagnosed.

If you would like to learn more about how Rolfing can benefit you, reach out to me via email or phone, or via the contact form on my website:

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