By Rachel Damiani and Ted Spiker
Americans, who spend about $8 billion a year in massage and chiropractic treatments to relieve pain, may have no idea that they’re all probably experiencing the same thing—a manipulation of their fascia, a three-tiered layer of tissue that encases tissues and organs. Although some people may have a vague notion that fascia exists, they probably don’t know much about their fascia—or understand why it even matters.
Fascia is the only tissue that modifies its consistency when under stress. It’s everywhere in the body, so it could affect just about everything. That leaves researchers wrestling with an intriguing dilemma: If fascia is everywhere, then how do you isolate its impact on the body? Early research suggests it may have relevance in areas one wouldn’t normally think of fascia playing a role, such as digestive conditions and cancer.
“Fascia is what holds us together. There are very few diseases that don’t have a fascia component,” said Frederick Grinnell, a professor of cell biology at the UT Southwestern Medical School.
In an article in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, researchers make the point that this web throughout our body has the potential to influence everything.
“Fascia is involved almost everywhere in the body,” said Andreas Haas, who has been a manual therapist for 30 years and has researched fascia for two decades, and is also the founder of the Manus Training Center and the Manus Fascia Center in Austria. “Each organ, each muscle, each artery, each vein, each nerve—there is not one single structure in the whole body that is not connected with fascia or not enveloped by fascia.”
What is fascia?
Fascia appears all over and acts like a casing—a biological Spanx of sorts. This fascia throughout the body holds muscles and organs in place to make sure they don’t jostle around.
The characteristic of fascia that is at the forefront of discussion in terms of health implications is its elasticity – that is, the capacity of the fascia to stretch and elongate which allows organs and tissues to function better. Lack of movement and other forms of dysfunction can cause fascia to stiffen up, thereby decreasing performance.
Long thought of as just the support structure, fascia may have more influence on health than as a passive container.
Why does it matter?
The main functions fascia include helping to coordinate the body’s movements, it’s position in space, and the fluid flow throughout the body.
Beyond movement conditions, fascia may also be involved in a variety of unexpected health conditions and diseases, including cancer, lymphedema, and gastrointestinal distress.
Specialized massage and bodywork techniques encourage fascia to become more pliable, lymphatic fluid flow to improve, and decrease swelling. Similarly, releasing fascia could help reduce gastrointestinal distress, including constipation, bloating and acid reflux. Source: www.washingtonpost.com