Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body. There
are 3 layers and all are important to health.
Before you barbecue your next steak, take a close look at it and you will see a shiny glistening membrane
over the surface of the muscle. What you are seeing is fascia (pronounced fashah).
If you look at a cut of meat such as a leg of lamb or even chicken, you will notice that the fascia blends in with
and becomes inseparable from muscle tendons. If fact if you look really closely, you will see the fascia of one
muscle blend with the fascia of other muscles where they attach to the same bones. It also blends with other
structures such as ligaments, bones and internal organs.
Photo showing various types of fascia the subtle of fascia, joint capsule, tendons.
Fascia can be as robust as tendons or as web like as seen in photo at left.(a)
Meyer has put forward the idea that there are trains of fascia that course functionally from one part of the body
to distant parts. (1) From a functionally structural view, all fascia is either directly or indirectly connected to all
other bits of fascia throughout the whole body. In a way similar to a spiders web. Stress one part ant the other
parts also distort.
Fascia is a seamless web of connective tissue that covers and connects the bones, muscles, organs, and
skeletal, blood and lymph vessels ducts of glands and the supportive soft tissue structures in our body. This
makes fascia a physiologically very important structure. The fascia fabric is a semi conducting
communication network that can convey the bio-electric signals between every part of the body and every
other part. (2) This is because the deep fascia of the body is richly endowed with nerves. Its sensory
receptors that report the presence of pain (nociceptors); change in movement (proprioceptors); change in
pressure and vibration (mechanoreceptors); change in the chemical milieu (chemoreceptors); and
fluctuation in temperature (thermoreceptors). All of these nerve functions relay messages to the brain. The
brain being an active responder becomes activated by these signals and generates signals of its own to go
to all appropriate parts of the body as well as back to the fascia itself.
When contraction persists, fascia will respond by bulking up or thickening. This makes it less flexible.
Although this increases the tensile strength of the fascia, it can unfortunately restrict the very structures it
aims to protect. The dysfunctions resulting from fascial restrictions range from a mild decrease in joint range
of motion to severe fascial binding of muscles, nerves and blood vessels.
However, if fascial contraction can be interrupted long enough, the fascia will normalize its composition and
tone and the extra material that was generated by prolonged contraction will be ingested by macrophages,
the body's tissue optimisers .
The deep fascia envelops all bone (periosteum); cartilage, and blood vessels and become specialized in
muscles (epimysium, perimysium, and endomysium) and nerves (epineurium, perineurium, and
endoneurium). The high density of collagen fibers is what gives the deep fascia its strength and integrity. The
amount of elastin fiber determines how much extensibility and resilience it will have. It provides mobile
connections and support to the body as ligaments, tendons and joint capsules.
The role of Fascia
Fascia in its various forms has a role to play in structural integrity and support through the strength and
flexibility of ligaments and tendons. Protection is provided to the body as a whole by distributing any
impacts a person may be accidentally or traumatically be subjected to. It does this by spreading mechanical
loads via the web of soft tissue that is the fascial system. All parts of the body are connected to all other parts
via the connections of fascia. As such it acts as a shock absorber.
It has a role in the more passive fluid dynamics of the body through the intimate role fascia plays with both
the venous and lymphatic systems and its connection with the lining of all vessels and ducts throughout the
body. Paoletti states (3) that it is the fascia that is responsible for the pumping force of the return circulation
of blood and lymph. The fascia contracts 8 to 12 times per minute and it is these contractions that actively
drive the fluid return to the heart. These vessels are also assisted by the movements of voluntary muscle
which in turn are also intimately involved with fascia. So if the fascia is the motor of the return of blood to the
heart, when it is dysfunctional, it can also induce fluid congestion if there is an abnormal tension with the
There is also a role in defense against the spread of pathogens. There is an intimate interaction both
structurally and functionally between the fascia and the immune system, which starts in the ground
substance. The role of fascia and connective tissue in general is one of local containment of pathogens long
enough for the immune system to be able to fight the pathogens before there is a possibility of infecting
greater amounts of the body.
Communication at a much faster level takes place along the surface of fascia. This is the way the
acupuncture meridians are now thought to operate. This communication system is a parallel system and is
in no way less important than the regulatory functions of the nervous system. It is this tissue and its fast
communication capacity which is activated automatically to enable people to move quickly and use "super
human" strength is situations of emergency. (2), (6) Many of the nerves found in close relationship are
predominantly sensory and when stimulated by malfunctioning fascial tissue, it may cause the sensation of
pain."This explains why current research has revealed that pain often exists without any, mechanical irritation
of nervous structures as was frequently assumed by the root-compression model." (6)
The health of fascia determines to a
large degree the healthy functioning of
all other systems in the body.
Damage to Fascia
Fascia is often injured mechanically by accidents or trauma and chemically by reduction of blood flow to the
various body parts. This reduction of blood flow may be very subtle and not be enough to cause wasting of
muscle, but enough to be more easily disrupted when there a minor knock. Emotions may also reduce blood
flow by causing an increased degree of tension in body tissues as mentioned by Ida Rolf of "Rolfing" fame.
HOW FASCIA CAN BE ASSISTED
Chiropractic applies forces to the body that not only restores motion and alignment, but also exerts changes
on a nerve and a fascial function level as well. The change that can be brought about by chiropractic care are
so great that this is often a logical place to start with most patients. Bowen and Microcurrent therapies are not
chiropractic methods and are introduced when further change is still needed and there are instability and
repair issues present. It has been shown that "without a proper neural connection, the tissue (fascia) does
not respond as it does under normal circumstances". (6) So the less the presence of subluxations the better
the fascia would be able to function.
Robb Myofascial Release
Pressure exerted at a level greater than their normal physiological pressure brings a restorative change to
fascia. (3) The greater the specificity of the direction that these pressures are applied, the less the
therapeutic pressure can be applied and still bring about a beneficial change. The direction of force
application is most easily determined by the use of Applied Kinesiology. Pressure exerted on myofascia
involves a stimulation of fascial mechanoreceptors. Their stimulation leads to an altered proprioceptive input
to the central nervous system, which then results in a changed tone regulation of motor units associated
with this tissue being stimulated. (6) Robb Myofascial release is used as an adjunct to chiropractic
During a Bowen Therapy treatment, we enhance the health of connective tissue in two main ways. The
transverse push and pull of the Bowen Therapy releases stuck and glued fibres in the fascia, allowing the
fluid movement to be restored. The compression of the Bowen therapy causes a piezoelectric alteration of
the tissue, causing impulses to be sent to the spinal cord and brain. The altered mechanics also allows the
area to rehydrate and the fluid pathways to reopen. Nutrients and oxygen can therefore be efficiently delivered
to the tissue, waste products removed and nerve impulses can, under the direction of the brain, be regulated
Malfunction of this tissue, adhesions and gluing patterns cause inefficient and restricted movement and
eventually pain and inflammation. When a Bowen treatment is given, the glued fascia fibres are gently pulled
apart and released allowing them to gravitate back to their natural functions.
Click the link to go to the microcurrent page for a more information regarding this therapy.
1 Meyer T W; Anatomy trains, Churchill Livingstone 2007
2 Oschman J; Energy Medicine
3 Paoletti S; The Fasciae Anatomy, Dysfunction and treatment 2006
4 Ambrogio K J & Roth G B; Positional release therapy; 1997
5 McMakin C.; Frequency Specific Microcurrent; Course notes 2005, Pub Health World Ltd
6 Schleip R; Fascial plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation, 2003
a Modified from www.orthop.washington.edu/_Rainbow/Album/10357m8c60f0a7-56dd-4408-9e5e-cdec4db84afd.jpg