Fascia has been called the crystal lattice of the human body due its spiderweb appearance. Fascia alters its form due to the forces that act upon it, similar to that of bone, but can change from fluid to gel-like states depending on movement, hydration, and circulation. There are four layers of fascia that all converge into the same anatomical location on our human bodies, the thoracolumbar aponeurosis, which is a common site of lower back pain and dysfunction. Thomas Myers, author of Anatomy Trains, has showed us that fascia is connected in meridian lines connecting our tissues from head to toe in various spiraling patterns. How does fascia change the way we think about movement, therapy, and exercise? How about nutrition, hydration, and performance? The Rolfing Institute has long recognized the profound effect faulty postural patterns can have on our entire myofascial system. Simple experiments have shown that a slumped posture leads to a depressed emotional state. How does fascia play a vital role in our day-to-day function and what is current research telling us to do?
According to John F. Barnes, the creator of Myofascial Release technique, “The fascial system functions as a fiber optic network that bathes each cell with information, energy, light, sound, nutrition, oxygen, biochemicals, hormones and flushes out toxins. The brain and nerves are important, but a much slower form of communication. The ion-transfer mechanism of nerve impulses is too slow to account for the massive amount of information necessary for our body/mind to function. Therefore, it is the fascia, your liquid crystalline matrix, that is the major and most important communication system of your body. The fascia functions as a fiber optic network connecting every aspect of our mind/body at an enormous speed.”
Natural movement at full range of motion is how fascia maintains its ability to communicate with our central nervous system. Without regular movement, fascia develops adhesions and becomes more rigid due to its collagen-based structure. This rigidity restricts our movement capabilities and the downward spiral continues. Circulation throughout the neuromyofascial tissues is lost over time and disease or dysfunction occurs, sometimes without us even noticing.
Robert Schleip discusses in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies how connective tissue contains smooth muscle cells, therefore showing its connection with the autonomic nervous system, the division that regulates our bodily organs without us having to consciously think about there function. When we sit or move our position in space is signaling our ANS through fascia about where we are and what we are doing. If we sit for too long, circulation can worsen, sometimes to the point of pins and needles often experienced in the night or while sitting on a hard seat or airplane. But, what if the numbing sensation is not experienced? Lack of circulation and tissue health can occur without observable symptoms. This is where Fascial Stretch Therapy introduces natural ranges humans should be able to perform in order to achieve optimal balance between joint surfaces, fascial tissues, muscle, nerve, and blood vessels. FST complements other massage therapy techniques by working the entire fascial network following more specific work.