I have decided to dedicate a page to explaining the fascia of the body. This material is ubiquitous, and yet many have never heard of it. Much research is being done right now, and there are many disagreements as to the labeling of the many ways fascia is present in the body. When you look at an anatomical drawing of the human body the main colors in the drawings are red–muscles or white–fascia. What becomes confusing is some of the fascia has specific anatomical names, while other parts of the fascia are ignored entirely.
The body of course, has never read a anatomy text, nor has it discussed with anatomists what it thinks of the demarcations. The body is a whole; to begin to understand what is there and how it works we have chosen to break it down into smaller bits that might be easier to absorb. Unfortunately, it results in misrepresenting the whole. So the skin of every organ of the body, the planes of tissue holding things together, the bands wrapping bones, or attaching muscles to bones are all called different things, even though it is all the same material. What we don’t understand we tend to ignore, so a vital part of our substructure has been ignored for centuries.
This is a mental trap we get into when trying to understand the body. We know so little about the body it is almost impossible to understand how it works. Without intending to, we belittle what we don’t know, by overstating what we do know. It is difficult to find the balance that always allows new information or understanding to enter an existing body of work.
Part of the confusion in this country is our Anatomy texts are different than the ones used in the rest of the western world. It has resulted in some parochial perspectives to our understanding of the body. In much the same way we hold onto inches, which are much more confusing to work with than the metric system, we hold on to understandings of the body that originated in Gray’s misunderstandings. We are loathe to question or alter the tome. So we carry the misconception with us, and ignore or ridicule those who altered the information through clinical experience.
There are several touch modalities that consider fascia when assessing the body, the two main ones are Rolfing and Craniosacral Therapy. Both modalities follow the fascia and study it. The approaches to it are very different. Rolfers look at the body to see where the tissue is restricted and plan a treatment based on these objective findings. CST practitioners get in touch with the fascia and follow it’s lead into restrictions, letting the body design the treatment plan. A good simple description of fascia can be found on Youtube done by Tom Myers, a Rolfer that has added very good information about fascia.
So, what is fascia and why do we need to know it exists? Learning about fascia has increased my wonder in the body. Everywhere that it is it seems to support whatever structure or system is there; and it is everywhere. The ground substance, which is an integral part of fascia, holds the potential building blocks of every structure of the body. Wow. Everything you need to build bone, muscle or organ is floating in the same substance that feeds and cleans each cell.
Fascia is made of three major components; collagen, elastin and ground substance. In every place that fascia is used, the percentage of each component will be different depending on how it is being used. If strength is needed, there is more collagen. If flexibility is more important, there is more elastin.
The versatility and utility of fascia continue to amaze me. It is the skin of every organ and its protective bag, specifically designed to make extra space for the organ. It is the make-up of every tendon and ligament, the connection in every muscle–known as myofascia, and the material that allows everything within the body to slide and glide against each other and themselves to provide the movement that brings balance to all the working systems of the body.