FASCIA, TENSEGRITY AND FLUID DYNAMICS: A NEW MODEL FOR LOOKING AT THE WAY FASCIA FUNCTIONS
“Blood and lymphatic vessels are solid fascial structures; what they carry is liquid fascia. The unusual characteristic of blood is the fact that the extracellular matrix is a liquid, which means that blood is a fluid connective tissue. In addition to the nutritive functions, blood also provides a way of linking to different organs that can communicate among each other with hormones and chemical mediators, guaranteeing the integration of the functions of the organism.
It is the vehicle of immune cells and platelets that can reach places in which their presence is necessary (eg, areas of inflammation), of antibodies and proteins of the clotting system, and of the numerous transport proteins to which the water-insoluble compounds that circulate in blood are attached.” From the study being discussed today
Italy’s Bruno Bordoni is one of the world’s premiere fascia researchers. In fact, I wrote a lengthy and in-depth article about him and some of his amazing studies (HERE), and am including below a quote from an article he wrote for the May issue of STAT Pearls (Anatomy, Integument, Fascias).
Researchers do not agree on one, comprehensive “fascia” definition. Despite the scientific uncertainty, there is agreement with medical text that the fascia covers every structure of the body, creating a structural continuity that gives form and function to every tissue and organ.
The fascial tissue has a ubiquitous distribution in the body system; it is able to wrap, interpenetrate, support, and form the bloodstream, bone tissue, meningeal tissue, organs, and skeletal muscles. The fascia creates different interdependent layers with several depths, from the skin to the periosteum, forming a three-dimensional mechano-metabolic structure.
This is a fairly common definition of FASCIA, which I have always thought of as the tough, cellophane-like membrane that makes up the covering or sheath that surrounds bones, nerves, blood vessels, organs, and as we mostly think of, muscles. However, pay close attention as Dr. Bordoni hits us with a new concept, a concept so revolutionary that he is creating an entire new model for thinking about both the anatomy (structure) and physiology (function) of fascia.
The fascia includes everything that presumes the presence of collagen/connective tissue or from which it is derived. All the tissue considered as “specialized connective tissue” of mesodermal derivation are inserted into the fascial system. These include blood, bone, cartilage, adipose tissue, hematopoietic tissue, and lymphatic tissue. The fascial system has no discontinuity in its path, with layers of different characteristics and properties overlapping
Re-read this short paragraph and grasp the immenseness what Bordoni is saying. He believes that fascia includes both blood and lymph. A paper he co-authored for the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine (A New Concept of Biotensegrity Incorporating Liquid Tissues: Blood and Lymph) goes much deeper into the explanation of this concept.
In order to understand what he’s talking about, it’s important that you first understand the concept of TENSEGRITY; the current model for the way that fascia both moves and acts as a mechanical support. In other words, tensegrity is what’s thought to give fascia biomechanical properties that are in direct opposition to each other. On one hand fascia is elastic, allowing it to resist the forces constantly trying to pull it apart. On the other hand it’s rigid, allowing it to combat the forces trying to compress it and squash it all together. Take a look at the abstract of this study.
The definition of fascia includes tissues of mesodermal derivation, considered as specialized connective tissue: blood and lymph. As water shapes rocks, bodily fluids modify shapes and functions of bodily structures. Bodily fluids are silent witnesses of the mechanotransductive information, allowing adaptation and life, transporting biochemical and hormonal signals.
While the solid fascial tissue divides, supports, and connects the different parts of the body system, the liquid fascial tissue feeds and transports messages for the solid fascia. The focus of this article is to reconsider the model of biotensegrity because it does not take into account the liquid fascia, and to try to integrate the fascial continuum with the lymph and the blood in a new model. The name given to this new model is RAIN — Rapid Adaptability of Internal Network.
What should you grasp from this paragraph? First, realize that MECHANOTRANSDUCTION is the process of turning mechanical stimulus into the electrical impulses that our nervous system and brain recognize best. This is part of what makes FASCIA AS A PROPRIOCEPTIVE ORGAN so critically important, and also provides at least a portion of the mechanism that allows FASCIA TO ACT AS A SECOND NERVOUS SYSTEM. Secondly, these processes require a fluid medium.
And thirdly, blood and lymph are actually part of this “continuum” that we call fascia. Listen to what Rutgers University says in their online article, Connective Tissues: Blood & Blood-Forming Tissues. “Blood is considered a connective tissue for two basic reasons: (1) embryologically, it has the same origin (mesodermal) as do the other connective tissue types and (2) blood connects the body systems together bringing the needed oxygen, nutrients, hormones and other signaling molecules, and removing the wastes.“
After describing the differences in the model of fascia put forth by three groups of academics, Bordoni says something interesting. He makes the point that these current definitions and descriptions of fascia — definitions which always make a big deal out of differentiating superficial fascia from deep — are erroneous. Why so?
Because it’s a delineation that we can only see in cadavers; it’s not something that happens in real life — a fact mentioned by John Barnes in my post from earlier this week (HERE). Bordoni’s point is that without including these fluids as part of what we call fascia (particularly when they meet all the criteria), the model breaks down.
The fascial continuum allows the correct distribution of the tensional information produced by different tissues enveloped and supported by the fascia, so that the whole body system can interact in real time. One of the fundamental characteristics of the fascia is the ability to adapt to mechanic stress, remodeling the cellular/tissue structure, and mirroring the functional necessity of the environment where the tissue lays.
After letting us know that “collagen makes up more than the 30% of the protein mass of the human bod,” Bordoni’s team discussed FIBROBLASTS, providing a definition. Take a look at how important these cells really are.
Fibroblasts are the main cellular component of connective tissue and secrete components of extracellular matrix (ECM) such as collagen and matrix, glycosaminoglycan, elastic and reticular fibers, and glycoproteins. Fibroblasts communicate among each other and are fundamental for managing perceived and produced tension.
They play a fundamental role in conveying tension and can dynamically affect mechanical tension, rapidly remodeling their cytoskeletons; the fibroblast’s cytoskeleton is made of microtubules, namely, actin filaments and intermediate filaments; specifically, the flexibility of actin enables a more rapid adaptation of the fibroblasts in the presence of compressive forces, due to the lengthening of the fascia.
If the mechanical information is present for only a short period of time, any morphological variation is reversible, and the cytoskeleton of the fibroblast can be restored to its original state. The fibroblasts play a significant active role in stimulating inflammatory processes, because they are responsible for a suitable cleaning, repair, and replacement of the elements of the fascial continuum that have been and are affected by traumas resulting from daily use.
I have lots of information on my site about the ECM, but suffice it to say that the extracellular matrix is one of the most important parts of fascia that most people are completely unaware of. The ECM is a group of compounds and molecules secreted by supporting cells in order to provide structural and biochemical integrity to the tissue itself.
Among other characteristics, the ECM is what allows cells to bind to one another when needed, communicate with each other (remember that “second nervous system” link from earlier?), and actually differentiate in to other tissues if required. The ECM also compromises a mixture of gels and fibrous tissues that fill the cell’s empty space, mechanically dissipating forces that are constantly bombarding the tissue.
We’ve been talking about blood, but we need to get around to discussing lymph. Lymph is the fluid that circulates through a network of vessels known as the lymphatic system, and is made up of the interstitial fluid — the fluid found outside of the cell that essentially bathes said cells in liquid. It is almost identical to blood plasma, which is the fluid part of blood.
As an important part of your immune system, the lymphatic system collects junk (bacteria, viruses, CANCER CELLS, and other things that should not be there — a problem made much worse if you have “THE LEAKIES“), and transports it to the lymph nodes, where the body can get down to the business of destroying it.
How does this all fit together to create a model of fascia different than our current model of fascia — “tensegrity” — the model that architect, Buckminster Fuller developed in 1961 (Fuller invented the GEODESIC SPHERE / DOME, which is the foundation for TENSEGRITY)? Follow along.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE OLD MODEL OF FASCIA TENSEGRITY AND A SUBSEQUENT NEW MODEL?
The concept of biotensegrity applied to the cell derives from the work of Ingber, starting from 1993. The biotensegretive model allows the cell or the system to sense external or internal forces, to transmit that mechanical information to the inside/outside of the cell or system, in order to allow local and systemic functions to remain stable. When a cell deforms at the passing of a force vector, the change of the shape activates a series of metabolic and hormonal events, with the purpose of making the cell less fragile, allowing it to continue to function. This mechanism is called mechanotransduction.
We can summarize the principle of biotensegrity with a thought by Bernstein: ‘The ability to find an action solution for any environmental situation – to solve adequately any emerging action problem.’ The propagation of the mechanical information toward the cytoplasm and the DNA, deforming the cell at the passing of one or more force vectors, is an event as rapid as the speed of sound.
Once again we see the concept not only of fascia as it’s own nervous system, but as a system that is constantly changing in order to create the perfect amount of flexibility or stiffness, which ever is needed, in order to effectively cope with the perpetual barrage of internal and external forces being placed on the body.
Also, for the record, Dr. Ingber, who is mentioned above, is the Harvard professor (MD / Ph.D), who along with DR. LANGEVIN and others, have shown how fascia is involved in all disease process (HERE). Here is an example of how / why this is true. For the record, I have already shown you that CANCER THRIVES IN STIFF TISSUES and that “THICKENING” is a hallmark of fascial adhesions.
The continuum of the liquid fascia is mirrored by the continuum of the solid fascia from transport system: vessels. To give some examples, if a lymph node is negatively affected by pathology and therapy, like in the case of cancers and radiotherapy, the whole lymphatic system is involved, implying the worsening of the transport of lymphatic material.
With aging, the whole vascular tree suffers from thickening of the vessels with an increasing of stiffness (in particular with the thickening of the intimal and adventitious layer), even in absence of a manifest pathology like atherosclerosis. The venous system suffers a delay of its flow with aging, both in limbs and in the cerebral vascular system, with a high probability of developing different central and peripheral pathologies.
Not only the tensegretive ability disappears, but when a local tensegretive discontinuity develops, the event will involve the whole blood and lymph net over time. If the solid fascia (vessels) is functional, the liquid fascia will be as well; if the liquid fascia does not encounter any obstacle on its path, the solid fascia (vessels and body structures) will be able to carry out its functions.
Bordoni and his team went on to show how the same thing is likewise true in joints, muscles, and tendons. When the tension and compression in a joint are at the right ratio, there is balance. Imbalance in the musculoskeletal system (CHIROS CALL THIS SUBLUXATION) creates a whole host of downstream sequelae that leads to problems that in many cases, don’t seem even remotely related to the original problem.
However, a quick peek of the earlier work mentioned shows that indeed they can be, and often times are. Listen to this extremely cherry-picked finale.
These variations and liquid movements improve the biotensegretive and myofascial functions, protect the organs, and allow a better immune defense. There is a direct relation between the strength expressed by muscles and the quantity/speed of arterial blood used. An artificially induced reduction of the quantity of blood that reaches the musculature during sports training makes protein synthesis easier, with increase of muscle hypertrophy.
The lymphatic movement toward a specific district or tissue can not only mean a postural change but also an immunological necessity. Lymphatic structures react to the inflammatory stimulus by increasing the drainage and the quantity of lymph, probably to make up for a bigger liquid loss from the blood vessels. The liquid fascia has a high variability in changing the pressures at which it flows, both at rest and during postural changes, in order to improve the continuum of the solid fascia, concerning the movement, the function, and the shape.
What does all of this mean for the average practitioner? Although I doubt this information dramatically changes the way we treat our patients, there are two things that I took away from this study. Firstly, hydration is of critical importance. I realize we all understand this, but this study reinforces the consequences of failing to keep your cells and tissues bathed in fluid.
Not enough fluid, and fascia is affected. And when fascia is affected, your health is affected (HERE). Secondly, we know that AGES (Advance Glycation Endproducts) affect fascia as well (HERE), thereby affecting the blood vessels themselves. This means that it’s more important than ever to break your SUGAR ADDICTION today, which is interestingly part of THE PROTOCOL I’ve been providing my patients and readers for years. If you want to see all of my posts on fascia, HERE is the link. If you appreciate these posts, be sure and share them on FACEBOOK.