Fascia: what we know and don’t know about this tissue
The most known fascia’s definition is from Findley and Schleip’s, which says that the fascial tissue “interpenetrates and involves all organs, muscles, bones, and nerve fibers”. However, this explanation is dated from 2007 and a lot has been done since then. Thus, it is also widely accepted that fascia has several other important functions, including:
- Neurological: it has about six times more nerve receptors than any other part;
- Structural: it is important to maintain balance, coordination and posture;
- Biomechanical force transmission;
- Morphogenic: it is present in the entire body and holds together the skeletal parts;
- Cellular signal transmission.
Fascia is, thus, a network of connective tissue that surrounds all parts of the body, from head to toe, which allows it to retain its proper structures. In addition, fascia is mainly formed of collagen, what makes it flexible, enabling muscles to move freely, while reducing its friction. That is why, when fascia is restricted due to some disfunction, the muscle contraction is also restricted.
This restriction, in turn, can lead to pain or even more limiting injuries. But this restriction may actually originate from the muscle or the fascia, because a tight fascia is as painful and restrictive as a tense muscle. Also, as it is an uninterrupted tissue, if an area of the body is in distress, it is not uncommon that the symptoms are felt elsewhere. That explains why a knee injury may cause pain in the shoulder.
The possibilities that fascial tissue has given us are huge and do not stop increasing as time passes by!
The importance of researches about the fascial tissue
Nevertheless, it is not like we know everything about fascia. This is, actually, quite the contrary. According to The Fascia Research Society, “Fascia is the most pervasive, but perhaps least understood network of the human body. No longer considered the ‘scraps’ of cadaver dissections, fascia has now attracted the attention of scientists and clinicians alike.”
When it became apparent that fascia was more than it looked, researchers began to direct their attention and take more interest in it. The main conclusion, however, is that the more we learn, the more we realize we still know nothing.
The problem is that these studies require full understanding of the body’s mechanisms, because the fascial tissue surrounds us entirely. And this is something that, even with all scientific evolution, we are still unable to understand.
Unfortunately, fascia itself is a tissue that needs studies. Therefore, due to its complexity, it ends up being difficult to us to really understand the functions performed by it.
Our fascia knowledge is constantly changing. Thus, it is no guarantee that everything we believe today is in fact true. But, if there is one thing we cannot deny, it is the importance it has to our body proper function and how – once we have gotten to know it better – we could develop and refine manual therapies that have helped a lot of people since then. People who once had to learn how to live with pain.
Even if the vast majority of researches on the subject are based on evidence from practical experiments, they are nonetheless valuable. After all, these studies allow us to try to understand a little more about the mysteries of fascia – although we are not able to understand its internal mechanisms.