Fascia - The place where healing can begin!
What is fascia? Why is it so important?
Fascia is the webbed network of connective tissue surrounding your muscles, organs, and nerves, and connects everything together giving you your form. It touches all the systems in your body and will communicate through cell activity. Disturbances in the fascia can affect muscles, lymph, nerves, metabolic function, and emotions.
Do you see the white colored divisions and smaller spider like web in the grapefruit picture to the right? Now imagine the same thing in your body. Fascia is interwoven 3 dimensionally throughout all the tissues of our body. Think of it as your soft skeleton that is both fiber and fluid and highly innervated. Fascia is the body's largest sensory organ! It's dynamic and functional to provide stability and movement while it slides and glides on each other and the tissues around it.
It is important because if the fascia isn't healthy or doesn't move and glide appropriately, injuries, pain, decreased range of motion, body system dysfunction, or even cancer according to new research may result.
The information I am learning about fascia is a stark contrast to the biomechanics I learned during college. Biomechanics suggests bones are the primary supportive structures creating lever and pulley systems for the muscles to move the body. However our bodies are living, biological tissues and those properties are much different to the properties of solid materials. Bio-tensegrity suggests fascia does most of the supportive work in the body as compared to the bones and it creates “slings” that support muscles while the bones float in it.
How do you treat fascia dysfunction?
In some ways you can think of fascia as wearing a onsie like babies. Say the foot gets caught in the onsie, even though the foot maybe able to move there is tension somewhere else in the onsie making it perhaps hard for the baby to move their shoulder. By reorganizing the foot into the onsie properly, the shoulder is then free to move.
Hopefully the area that has the greatest tissue compromise is located by a skilled practitioner and treated accordingly. Bowenwork® challenges the fascia by gently changing its length (stretching) which causes receptors to send information throughout the fascia and to the spinal cord and brain about the status of the environment. After the brain and fascia process the input, information and adjustments are made in the fascia causing the body to adjust tension and adopt a better position or posture resulting in less stress or strain on the body allowing greater function and reduced pain. Tensegrity Medicine is another method to address the fascia by its unique myofascial assessment and treatments. Bowenwork and Tensegrity Medicine are a nice compliment to each other.
Whether or not you see someone for fascial intervention, there are some great ways to care for your fascia and these are often "homework" exercises for those currently in treatment. First is of course nutrition and hydration. "You are what you eat" my mom used to say. Our bodies are made of 70% water, which surround the fibers, cells, and other major players in fascia. If we didn't have fascia the water would pool to our feet! As water flows around in this fascia space, it helps transport nutrients to the cells. And obviously hydration is good for more than just your fascia, so drink water! The important second way to take care of your fascia is movement - walking, exercising, swimming, anything other than staring at a screen! Yoga in particular is a great way to keep the fascia healthy as fascia responds to motion and stretch when applied in the right manner. Additionally, vary your movements, which means take frequent breaks from the computer by getting up and walking around or doing neck and shoulder movements, but this also means vary your exercise routine. Why do you think sport specialization is frowned upon by doctors? They do the same sport/movement for long periods of time and to not rest appropriately! Rest is not a 4 letter word!
Unfortunately there are some techniques that may be too violent in nature for fascia. We are still learning a lot about fascia because it has been a very difficult tissue to study in the past but new diagnostic technology and sophisticated imaging techniques are allowing researchers to dive deeper into its structure and function.
Check out this video about fascia. Very thorough summary!
Check out this article on fascia by the Washington Post. It's exciting that more people are talking about it!
What is a dysfunctional pattern and why is it bad?
Our bodies are incredibly adaptable to our environment, both physical and emotional stress of life. Sometimes these adaptations have a physical and emotional cost resulting in compensations that affect us physically and emotionally. For example, much of our posture in society today involves being hunched over a computer or device. This body position over long periods of time can cause muscles on the front of our body to be shortened and muscles on the back side of our body to be lengthened putting us in a compromised position. This can lead to muscular pain and weakness, chest depression and tightness, and possibly unconscious emotional issues. This is one of many examples of dysfunctional patterns that can wreak havoc on our health.
Bowenwork can “reboot” our neurological system to allow us to escape the dysfunctional patterns. After Bowenwork, your homework is to avoid those bad habits or postures and retrain your brain to accept the new pattern.