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  • Writer's pictureDr. Michael Macri

Fascia – Buzzword or Reality?

Have you heard the word fascia recently? It’s become a buzzword that is more popular than it has been before. It’s been in the news and in health-related articles. Even though it is a word you’ve likely heard, many people don’t know exactly what it means. On a microscopic level, your fascia is a network of fibers (mainly consisting of collagen) and the spaces between them. The primary role of your fascia is to stabilize, attach, enclose, and separate muscles, skin, and organs from each other. It has been described as a spider-web like covering that contains fibers and spaces of hydration to assist the body. Fascia contains two layers: a superficial and a deep. The superficial layer lies beneath the surface of your skin and the deeper layer encases the structure of your individual muscles. Fascia is a contributing factor for musculoskeletal related symptoms or conditions such as injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels, and other things that help the body to move. Given this function, fascia plays a key role in structure, form, shape, and motion, and has much more function than we have thought previously.

Why Is Fascia Important?

The architecture of human living fascia plays a significant role in shaping the form of the body. It used to be thought that cells alone performed this function. Instead, these cells are shaped and molded by this extracellular system of the fascia. Fascia creates what is referred to as the “sliding system.” This means that as various parts of the body move, the fascia uses the pockets of space to give the body the ability to move effortlessly and without injury. Fascia can organize and control itself, making it a constitutive tissue – it has the power or capability to establish or give organized existence to another tissue or structure.

Fascia’s Role in Other Processes

When the fascia swells, it becomes restricted and causes decreased motion in the structure of your soft tissue. The swelling, called Edema, is due to white blood cells moving into the internal spaces of fascia that results in the constriction of the fibers so that they are unable to unfold, lengthen, or perform any role in maintaining the framework of the body and doesn’t allow sliding to occur. These changes are like those found in scar tissues. This may be the explanation as to why some people experience the phenomenon of excessive adherence (meaning that the fascia is “stuck” and doesn’t move easily).

When bruising or ecchymosis occurs, the red blood cells move into the fascia causing a similar but less severe process than Edema.

Inflammation is another issue that millions of people suffer from. It is destructive to many areas of the body, but the fascia is most affected. The fibers of the fascia thicken and slow down your movement significantly.

Scar tissue also impacts fascia. The scar tissue helps an area remain in formational function, meaning it glues broken pieces together. However, scar tissue is structurally and functionally dysfunctional. It comes together in a messy web and does not allow for normal stretching and movement of tissue. This causes problems in mobility and circulation.

Main Points To Remember:

- Fascia consists of fibers and fluid

- Fascia facilitates sliding

- Fascia is the global framework for the body from skin to cell nucleus

- Fascia can organize and control itself

Ongoing Research

There is still much to learn about fascia and how it functions in our bodies. There has been extensive research on fascia and there is much more to learn and understand about it as well. We know what fascia is now, what its purpose is, the role it has in pain and tissue damage, and why we treat it as part of a common treatment plan. There have been discoveries on various “lines” of fascia throughout the body – demonstrating that fascia has a much larger role in form and function. There is a possibility that general function and dysfunction of fascia can have a mechanical change on the cell nucleus of several types of cells that may influence the quantity and quality of the cell. There is new research coming out about how there have been smooth muscle fiber cells found in biopsies of fascial tissue. This further opens the door to more research and learning more about the vital role that fascia plays in conditions and treatment.

How To Treat Fascia Damage?

Sprains, strains, disc-related disorders, tendinopathies (tendinitis or tendonosis where the tendon is painful, swollen, and has restricted function), chronic pain, and various inflammatory conditions are most commonly seen in our clinic. This tissue damage has three general phases: acute inflammation, repair, and remodeling. In all three phases, the fascia is directly affected. It may be the main contributor to your symptoms, and this is something that can be diagnosed by your chiropractor or practitioner.

The common treatments include rehab, soft tissue manipulation, cupping, ice and heat therapy, chiropractic manipulation, massage therapy, and acupuncture. A nutritional therapy approach would be helpful in decreasing any widespread inflammation and support various physiological pathways and cells that aid in tissue repair.

Your practitioners at Evergreen Spine and Sports Medicine are committed to keeping up with research findings and implementing treatments into your plan to combat problems that damaged fascia creates as well as any conditions pertaining to the musculo-skeletal system as well as the nervous system. If you are struggling with mobility and pain problems, please schedule an appointment to discuss a treatment plan that works best for you.

Check out our website for a list of sources for this article and a link to an interesting video.

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