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What is fascia in the body and is fascial understanding the secret for better health?

Updated: May 3, 2023

So what the heck is fascia? I know most people only have in mind the fascia board on our houses roof.... Well not exactly what this article is about!

I have found one of the best description of the functions and properties of the body's fascia in this book, 'Living pain free' by Amanda Oswald, a leading UK Myofascial release specialist.

I will try to summarise below the main points to understand why a healthy fascia is so important for our mind-body health.

'Fascia is the main connective tissue in the body, connecting everything to everything else. The ligaments that hold our joints together and the tendons that connect the muscles to the bones are all made of fascia. But it does not stop there. As we examine the body more closely we find that fascia wraps around and runs through every one of its structures, protecting them and giving them shape. Fascia encases and runs through organs such as our heart, blood vessels, nerves and the muscles that make our limbs work. Going deeper fascia holds together every cell and every fibre that makes up these organs. [...]

To really appreciate the role of fascia we must first unlearn some traditional anatomy. Medical students spend many hours in the dissecting lab looking in detail at structures of the body. To do so, they are told to strip away the "white stuff" so that they can get to the more important structures beneath, such as muscles, bones and nerves. This "white stuff" that the student discard in the lab is fascia. Although fascia is the most widespread tissue in the body, it does not fit the traditional categories for study, so the role and importance of fascia has not been widely recognised or taught. Traditional anatomy divides the body into separates cells, tissues and systems and the medical profession has developed into separate specialties that match these systems. In doing so it has moved away from regarding the mind-body as an interconnected whole'.

Fascia has two main roles in the body:

  • Physical support. Fascia as a physical web is able to conduct the forces required for movement. It has a tensile strength of 2.000 lb per square inch! It is this fascial strength that holds the body together, maintaining its shape and enabling movement.

  • Communication. Fascia as communication network is able to transmit messages.

Photo from Dr. Guimberteau's filming of fascia

"As well as having a role in physical balance, this connective network of fascia within the body is a communication system that works quicker than your nervous system.

Fascia contains more nerve endings than any other tissue. This makes fascia incredibly sensitive to change and also gives it the potential to communicate change throughout the body. Some fascial researchers have proposed that fascia is a communication system in its own right - one that works faster than the nervous system to communicate feelings before they are registered consciously."

What is fascia made of?

  • Protein. Collagen for strength and Elastin for flexibility

  • Water. Any reduction in a body's water content will adversely affect fascia.How much water you drink affects how well your fascia works. It becomes more viscous, or gel-like. It becomes sticky and starts to stick to itself and other structures in the body. This process squeezes the water out of the fascia and the tissue it supports. Communication between the cells reduces and toxins build up in the tissues as their normal transport system has ceased to work.

What does this all mean for disease and health?

  • Fascia is a three-dimensional web that runs throughout the body to maintain structure and health.

  • It is a communication system that conducts physical forces and communicates chemical and electrical message to body tissues.

  • Injury and imbalances in the fascia create conditions for disease.

  • An understanding of the fascial system offers us new ways to treat injury and disease.

  • Bowen therapy works to release and reset the fascial network throughout the body .

To learn more about what fascia looks like, have a look at this Youtube video:

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