Heh Fascia, what are you anyway? And why should I care? Part 1

When a joint is injured and requires surgery and care, the surrounding tissue is taken into consideration as part of the rehabilitation process. The connective tissue which consists of the tendons, ligaments and fascia that encircle the joint, organizes the muscles and nerves to play a vital role in recovery. Care is taken to make sure that the tissue heals well by making sure it grows back in a fashion that is supportive to the structure. If the supportive connective tissue is not taken into consideration, scar tissue and adhesions develop altering the biomechanics and efficiency of movement and the whole biological system.

I say the whole biological system because of this: Fascia is a continuous structure, not relegated to one muscle cell and one muscle. Fascia defines a muscle and gives it shape, but continues in connection throughout the body forming broad continual sheets. This serves 2 major functions: a method of communication to the biological system to inform and supplement the nervous system and integumentary system and a method of containment for muscular systems to move and act with efficiency.

Fascia and all connective tissue is derived embryologically from the mesoderm, the middle layer in bilateral animals in early embryological development. This layer serves to form the basis of compartments in the body and because of its location is closely tied to the development of the nervous system and integumentary system (ectoderm or outer layer) and the endoderm (the inner layer, the organs).

It is only in the last 2 decades that western medicine is taking into consideration fascia as a vital component to healing. Massage therapists, Rolfers, acupuncturists and other integrative medicine professionals have known this a lot longer.

Connective tissue including fascia have 3 major stages of healing.: Inflammation, repair or proliferation of cells, and remodeling. If we do not tend to the repair stage with attention, the body will proliferate cells in a disorganized fashion that will speed or cause the proliferation of scar tissue. This lack of attention causes more inflammation, more repair, more laying down of scattered scar tissue, and remodeling in an inefficient manner.

Which brings me to my point.

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We are just learning to take care of the fascia of the joint. But what about the fascia of the body? When someone has surgery, the same fascia that surrounds the muscle, surrounds the organs, the heart, the genitals, which connects to the bones, and the nervous system. If inflammation is occurring, repair is occurring and proliferation of cells are occurring. This happens in the viscera just as it would anywhere in the body. Could we not prevent even more surgeries, laxatives, medications, and yes even mental illness (the gut distorted cannot eliminate and will create havoc in serotonin secretion and absorption)? I think yes. Absolutely yes. If we were to take into consideration the importance of the fascial system and its role in the body, namely to inform and contain, we could be moving and living with greater efficiency…I believe we need to go the next step which is to start to hear the fascia and what it is telling us about our body and what is needed. In my next blog post on this subject, I will continue writing on fascia, visceral fascia, the importance of non linear movement, yoga and other embodied practices to support the body as a whole.

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