Fascia

We are glad to see fascia having its moment.


Long overlooked, long understudied—it’s clear that research into fascia is gathering momentum.


And why not?


Fascia is “the band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses and separates muscles and other internal organs.” (Wikipedia).


Note: we are not talking about the fascia and soffits on the front of your house.


Fascia is as critical as everything else in the function of human anatomy.


Here in Colorado (where the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System is based—in Loveland), we are neighbors with the Fascia Research Society, headquartered in nearby Boulder.


“The Fascia Research Society (FRS) facilitates, encourages and supports the dialogue and collaboration between clinicians, researchers and academicians, to further understanding of fasciae,” according to the FRS website. It was launched from the “successful, multi-disciplinary International Fascia Research Congress.”


The FRC meets every few years—the last one in 2018 and the next in 2021 in Montreal. The convention pulls together thousands (yes, thousands) of attendees from over 40 countries.


Sample presentation title from the 2018 conference: “Anatomical and functional relationships between external abdominal oblique muscle and posterior layer of thoracolumbar fascia.” (Synopsis here.)


The Southern California Health Institute website calls fascia “the forgotten organ.”


One article in the institute’s site points out that our understanding of fascia is constantly evolving. “While scientists used to think fascia was made up of connected parts, more recent knowledge reveals that it's actually one single sheath. While this in itself is amazing, it also highlights the fact that if one part of this webbing is flawed, the entire system is impacted.”


Yoga Journal says fascia is the current “buzzword” in yoga circles. This article calls fascia a kind of “sticky grease.” Fascia “both holds us firmly together, yet constantly and miraculously adjusts to accommodate our every movement.”



For example, says Yoga Journal, “the triceps are wedded by fascial fabric to their neighboring muscles north, south, east, and west, as well as to the ligaments deep in both the shoulder and elbow. If you contract the triceps in Plank Pose, all these other structures will have an effect and be affected. Your whole body engages in the action—not just your triceps, pectoral, and abdominal muscles.”


Now, there are some naysayers. At least, cautionary takes. One thoughtful piece is on the Pain Science website here. This writer is advocating for true research, not fuzzy claims. (It’s hard to argue with his standards for true understanding).


“Some fascia research is truly intriguing,” writes Paul Ingraham in an often amusing (and long) article. “What many researchers are saying about fascia is reasonable. Many are not reaching awkwardly beyond the data. Unfortunately, many therapists fascinated by fascia are reaching beyond — way beyond — what the science can actually support, or probably ever will. In some cases, in fact, we already know enough to know that an interesting property of fascia is only interesting, and irrelevant to working with patients.”


So, let the science march forth. Beware of armchair experts.


But, fascia deserves as much study and attention as the attention-grabbing muscles, bones and organs.


We trust peer-reviewed research will separate the high-quality understanding from the superficial (we almost said super-fascia) claims.

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