myofascial meridians & anatomy trains: the evidence continues to mount

THE EVIDENCE FOR MYOFASCIAL MERIDIANS IS BECOMING DIFFICULT TO IGNORE

Myofascial Chains

I was certified in Acupuncture by the late Dr. Jon Sunderledge of the Chicago area clear back in 1991 (I don’t do as much these days, although I’ve started playing with DRY NEEDLING). One of the first things I learned in his classes is that acupuncture points correspond to electrical resistance (Ω), and for amateurs such as I was, these points are easy to find using inexpensive devices (“POINT FINDERS“) that measure such.  One of next things I learned when studying acupuncture was that the subtle electrical energy that the Chinese refer to as “chi,” travels around the body on or just below the surface along specific pathways called meridians. Interestingly enough, the past two decades have shown us that FASCIA functions in meridian-like fashion as well.  

A study from last month’s issue of the Journal of Sports Science (Remote Effects of Lower Limb Stretching: Preliminary Evidence for Myofascial Connectivity?) helped shed some light on this topic.  A group of scientists divided healthy participants into two groups.  The most important ROM in the body  (CERVICAL EXTENSION) was then tested for both groups.  One group did three thirty second bouts of stretching for the hamstrings and calves, while the other group did nothing.  Both groups were then retested immediately.  The results showed that cervical, “ROM increased following stretching but remained unchanged in the control group.”  The study’s abstract stated…..

“The skeletal muscles and the fibrous connective tissue form an extensive, body-wide network of myofascial chains.  As fascia can modify its stiffness, strain transmission along these meridians is supposable.  Our data point towards existence of a strain transfer along myofascial meridians. Further randomized controlled studies on conditions, factors and magnitude of tensile transmission are warranted.”

Enter Tom Myers of “Anatomy Trains” fame.  Myers studied with all the big names in Structural Integration (Rolfing), including it’s founder Ida Rolf.  In 2001 he authored the book “Anatomy Trains” (it’s been updated a couple of different times, including 2014).  Myers also studied with Buckminster Fuller, who coined the term “TENSEGRITY” concerning his most famous invention — the Geodesic Dome. Fuller soon realized that the same principles of physics hold true for any number of biological systems.  Science has since discovered that numerous structural tissues (FASCIA, TENDONS, MUSCLES, LIGAMENTS, BONE, etc) have Tensegrity-like characteristics.

On Myers’ “Fascia Page,” he states….

“Our western science way of understanding the body – cutting it into smaller and smaller parts – has led to great discoveries, but it tends to destroy important connections, and otherwise ignore the whole system responses of the collagenous net. Fascia is, in fact, our system of Biomechanical Regulation – just as our circulatory system is a chemical regulator and the nervous system is a timing regulator – and needs to be studied and treated as a system, not only as a series of parts.  Anatomy atlases and kinesiology texts tend to reduce us to Newtonian biomechanics of forces, vectors, and levers as if we we are manufactured from parts like a car or a computer. This is a very limited viewpoint that explains some behaviors of our system but obscures others.  It is rapidly falling before Einstein’s Relativity (only 100 years late), fractal mathematics, synergetic systems theory, and tensegrity geometry as applied to biological systems.”

I talk about some of this on my own FASCIA PAGE (extremely cherry-picked)……

Our modern medical system has a propensity for “pigeonholing”.   Medicine likes division. You know, subdividing, micro-dividing and then for good measure, further dividing the body into lots of separate parts, systems, and categories…..  This creates a model that generates extreme disconnectedness as far as the body is concerned, largely because it fails to explain how the whole organism can be so much greater than the sum of its individual parts.  When it comes to Fascia, doctors know what it is and what it looks like, but their model fails to explain what Fascia really is, how it really works, why there is so blasted much of it, or why it is of such critical importance.  In fact, in most medical textbooks, Fascia has been all but totally taken out of the anatomical pictures, drawings, and diagrams.  Although quality pictures of muscles, bones, and organs are a dime a dozen, great pictures of Fascia are incredibly difficult to find.  Removing the Fascia means that everyone can see what’s important — individual muscles.   But unfortunately, out of site equals out of mind.  And after all; if neither the medical text books, the medical research, nor your doctor are talking about Fascia, explaining Fascia, or showing great pictures of Fascia, how important can Fascia really be?

ANATOMY TRAINS AND FASCIAL MERIDIANS

Just the other day I saw a patient with CHRONIC NECK PAIN, whom I could not get to fully turn her head to the left.  As I challenged the area, she stated that she felt like the restriction was in her low back.  After doing some intense work on her THORACOLUMBAR FASCIA, the problem / restriction in her neck resolved instantly.  Likewise, I saw an older gentleman who had been struggling with neck pain and vertigo, who could literally not turn his head more than a few degrees in any direction (this was his first chiro experience). 

After TISSUE REMODELING and ADJUSTMENT, right and left rotation were restored to almost 100%. But he still could not go into EXTENSION at all (tipping his head backwards).  After further challenging the area, I found SCAR TISSUE / FIBROSIS in his mid back.   Upon dealing with it, his head went back into full extension (he could have set a glass of water on his forehead).  What was his diagnosed problem?  DEGENERATIVE ARTHRITIS.  He was told his vertebrae were so worn out that his neck would never again work properly.

I say all of this to discuss the concept of Fascial Meridians — or as Myers refers to them; ANATOMY TRAINS.  Myers is not the lone voice in the wilderness. It should pique your attention that the mainstream medical community is starting to take a hard look at Fascial Meridians, and talking about them in peer-reviewed journals. The famous physicians from Italy (THE STECCOS) have been in this game for a very long time.  Their theory is that there is an intimate link between Acupuncture Meridians and Fascial Meridians (HERE).  Not surprisingly, Chinese Acupuncturists have been studying this concept for quite some time as well (HERE).  The latest to jump into the fray are the Europeans.

Jan Wilke and his team of PT’s, MD’s, and Ph.D researchers from the Department of Sports Medicine at Frankfurt Germany’s Goethe University have been researching this concept of Myofascial Meridians hot and heavy for several years. In March of this year, the journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation published their study called What Is Evidence-Based About Myofascial Chains: A Systematic Review.   This research is an important step because despite the fact that the medical community continues to largely ignore whatever portion of Evidence-Based Medicine they don’t care for (HERE), there is increasing empirical proof (not to be confused with ANECDOTAL PROOF) that the “Fascia Folks” been more right than wrong all along.

The German team looked at all relevant research on anatomy dissections between 1900 and 2014 (I WONDER IF THEY LOOKED AT THIS ONE?) that dealt with, “morphologic continuity between the muscular constituents of the examined meridians.”  In other words, they were looking for anatomical connections between various muscles and muscle groups that could be verified by cadaver dissections.  Out of Myer’s six Myofascial Meridians (Anatomy Trains), the authors found……

strong evidence for the existence of 3 myofascial meridians: the superficial back line (all 3 transitions verified, based on 14 studies), the back functional line (all 3 transitions verified, based on 8 studies) and the front functional line (both transitions verified, based on 6 studies). Moderate-to-strong evidence is available for parts of the spiral line (5 of 9 verified transitions, based on 21 studies) and the lateral line (2 of 5 verified transitions, based on 10 studies).  No evidence exists for the superficial front line (no verified transition, based on 7 studies).   The present systematic review suggests that most skeletal muscles of the human body are directly linked by connective tissue.

It’s ALL CONNECTED FOLKS!  The authors concluded by saying, “Strain transmission along meridians would both open a new frontier for the understanding of referred pain and provide a rationale for the development of more holistic treatment approaches.”  But since when does the American medical community concern themselves with, “holistic treatment approaches“?  Never; unless they want to be vilified, made a laughingstock, and even blacklisted / shunned (HERE, HERE, and HERE are examples of what I’m talking about).  Wilke’s team came right back for the attack with another study.

Their latest research, published in next month’s issue of the Journal of Anatomy (Intermuscular Force Transmission Along Myofascial Chains: A Systematic Review), deals with studies that actually looked at the specific mechanical forces transferred through the pathways that are coming to be known as Myofascial Meridians or Chains (or Anatomy Trains).  “Human dissection studies as well as in vivo experiments reporting intermuscular tension transfer between the constituents of a myofascial chain,” was how the authors described it.  The study’s results?

“Concerning the SBL and the BFL, there is moderate evidence for force transfer at all three transitions (based on six studies), and one of two transitions (three studies). One study yields moderate evidence for a slight, but not significant force transfer at one transition in the FFL. The findings of the present study indicate that tension can be transferred between some of the examined adjacent structures.”

From these two meta-analysis, we not only see that there is anatomical (structural) evidence validating Myofascial Meridians, there is physiological (functional) evidence as well.   Granted, this area of study is in its infancy, but when you add to it the abundant evidence already available (HERE), it appears that this is an area that needs some time, energy, and money put into it.  If people’s lives can be changed by simply CHANGING THEIR PHYSIOLOGY as opposed to covering their symptoms with “THE BIG FIVE“, everybody benefits — except those making money by DOING ENDLESS EXAMS, RUNNING WORTHLESS TESTS, and PRESCRIBING DANGEROUS DRUGS — drugs that BMJ said earlier this month were one of the top three causes of American deaths (see “worthless” link).

It is critical for you to remember that SCAR TISSUE, Fibrosis, and Fascial Adhesions, are always the result of inflammation (HERE).  Although this inflammation might purely be the function of faulty biomechanics, it is usually the case that there are any number of other things driving it as well.  Again, this is critical to grasp because INFLAMMATION ALWAYS LEADS TO SCAR TISSUE.  For those of you struggling with SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION; unless you are WILLING TO STEP OUTSIDE OF THE BOX of standard medical treatment, you can probably forget about completely solving your problem, because DRUGS alone simply can’t do it.

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