As any manual therapist will tell you, living, conscious tissue looks, feels and behaves very differently from what is described in the pages of anatomy textbooks.
Of course, we have long had machinery that can see into living bodies. Ultrasound scanners, X-ray, MRI, cannot detect important connective tissue restrictions. Fascial layers that are stuck together or under too little or too much tension do not show up.
What about living biopsies and surgery, surely these will have thrown some light on the subject?
Nope, anything that involves cutting, fundamentally changes the architecture of fascia.
However, in the last few years, Confocal-laser microscopy and tiny remote control cameras have made it possible to see beneath the skin. So that we can now observe the working structure and fluid dynamics of living fascia. And this is how (at last) it was officially confirmed that fascia is, in itself, interesting enough to be designated an organ.
As usual science takes a while to catch up truly visionary thinkers and biochemist Dr. Ida P Rolf was certainly one of those. She was telling her students about the importance of healthy fascia and how to work with it way back in the 1940s.
To be fair, fascia has been a focus of scientific inquiry for a small band of pioneers for over a decade. Each year the fascia research congress brings together scientists from around the world to share their ideas and new discoveries.
I attended the last fascia congress in Berlin in 2019 and so would like to share with you some of the highlights. So here we go with •••
Current thinking about human evolution says that we began life in the sea. Fish to amphibian to mammal to ape to homo sapien. WInterestingly, our interstitial fluid has the same chemical makeup as seawater. So, it seems that we came from the sea but brought the sea with us, inside our fascial matrix.
On many levels, our lives still move to the rhythms of the moon, the stars, and the oceans. The latest research seems to take that analogy a stage further. On a microscopic level, variations in fluid sheer affects the behaviour of fascial cells. Like tiny sea creatures carried along by the ebb and flow of undersea currents, minute variations in the rate of flow, pressure, and volume can cause fibroblasts to produce more collagen fibres to strengthen fascia, or more reticular or elastin fibres to make it more stretchy. Whilst other tidal movements may increase the production of mast cells leading to inflammation. Even though inflammation is a necessary part of any healing process, too much of it has the potential to cause fibrosis --- the medical name for scar tissue.
So there you have it, nine reasons to take care of your Fascia.
Keith Graham is a Certified Advanced Rolfer
To read more about Rolfing please click here
On October 29th, I finally underwent knee replacement surgery at the Royal Surrey in Guildford.
This, hopefully, will be the final chapter in what has been a 15-year saga of intermittent discomfort but also discovery and acceptance. I have learned a great deal about how to manage a body that will no longer comply with the physical expectations of its forever youthful occupant. One who still thinks like a 20-year-old. I have come (reluctantly I admit) to accept that a certain amount of wear and tear is inevitable as we age. Change of lifestyle is necessary, and remedies are also called for. Not everything is fixable though, a certain amount of stoicism tempered and lightened by unquenchable optimism is essential. I have come to realise that being open always to new ideas, however crazy-sounding and a determination to stick with those that work is a reliable survival strategy. In sharing some of what I have learned here, it is my simple hope that you may benefit in some way. Avoiding some of the cul de sac that I have wastefully wandered down on my meandering journey.
1. Sit less, move more - Motion is Lotion
Humans are designed to move. Regular and varied movement helps keep the body fluid, loose and disease free*. When we don't move enough, fascial layers bind together, restricting vital fluid flow, resulting in toxic metabolic build up. Sticky fascia stiffens joints and can cause painful nerve entrapment.
*New research indicates that cancer cells travel down fascial pathways that have lost fluid motion. (See the You tube video below or click here)
standing still for more than 30 minutes at a time causes a 75% increase on spinal disc pressure. Sitting for the same length of time results in an additional 65% pressure on the spine. Slouching (loosing your lumbar curve) when sitting adds another 45% pressure. That’s a total of 185% extra pressure! - Chronic Back pain anyone?
For more on Movement habits that harm, please click here: Are you moving with your brakes on? - blog
2. Use your ribs when you breathe
This might not be welcome news if you have developed a belly breathing habit through slouching or through your meditation, yoga or tai chi practice. The logic of this advice is simple though, and you can read a full explanation here: Big Bad Belly Breathing - blog
In brief, belly breathing is excellent for relaxation, but it limits rib movement. If belly breathing becomes your everyday habit, you are heading for trouble.
The ribs have evolved to move with every breath we take. For the average person that's about 13,000 movements per day. The ribs attach to the long middle section of the spine. When the ribs move, the thoracic vertebrae are also moved in a very beneficial way enabling the discs in between them to stay hydrated and juicy. Belly breathers are missing out on a potential 13,000 Lotion producing movements per day. Go Figure!
3. Walk sexy or suffer
As you walk to work, school or the shops today, take an internal look at your hips.