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new news on the fascia front: highlights of the fifth fascia congress


Fascia Research

  Having mentioned the (then) upcoming FIFTH INTERNATIONAL FASCIA RESEARCH CONGRESS a couple of months ago, I thought I would comment on the article from the January issue of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (Findings From the Frontiers of Fascia Research: Insights Into ‘Inner Space’ and Implications for Health).  The authors kicked things off by telling us how hard it is to define fascia.  Why?  Because there are scientific papers showing that TENDONS are fascia, that BLOOD IS FASCIA, and that even bone itself is fascia — fascia that has been crystallized by a matrix of calcium and other minerals (HERE).  Among numerous others, they also showed that both LIGAMENTS and even ADIPOSE TISSUE (fatty tissue) are fascia.  Much of this has to do with the fact that fascia comes in two distinct flavors — loosely-packed connective tissue and dense, fibrous connective tissue; the stuff we mostly tend to think of when we think about FASCIA.

Fascia is made up of FIBROBLASTS (collagen-secreting cells), MYOFIBROBLASTS (cells that give fascia the ability to contract), telocytes (extremely long fibers that give fascia the ability TO CONNECT YOUR BODY AS A WHOLE, aiding in it’s ability to act as A SECOND NERVOUS SYSTEM), fasciacytes (cells that secret the gel-like HYALURONIC ACID), along with numerous other components, including the new lymphatic circulatory system called the INTERSTITIUM.  These channels have already been shown to be important in LYMPHEDEMA / LIPEDEMA, the spread of CANCER, in wound healing, in HOMEOSTASIS, as well as their ability to “remove pathogens“.  When the authors made the statement, “Interstitial fluid flow is essential for a properly functioning immune system,” I couldn’t help but thinking about one of the many incredible benefits of OUR BACKYARD TRAMPOLINE!

Also talked about were THE VARIOUS TYPES OF PAIN, with mention being made to the premises underlying DR. CHAN GUNN’S WORK — showing that when exposed to the chemicals that make up the immune system mediators we collectively refer to as “INFLAMMATION,” nerves within the tissue can become hyper-sensitized, leading to problems like HYPERALGIA / ALLODYNIA, which are both characteristics of an all-too-common phenomenon known as CENTRAL SENSITIZATION (the worst kind of chronic pain).

The same research team also showed how SPONTANEOUS DISC HERNIATIONS are related to both muscular atrophy and FATTY INFILTRATION of the low back muscles and THORACOLUMBAR FASCIA, mostly the result of unbridled inflammation coupled with lack of exercise (or maybe I should say, lack of the right kinds of exercise).  This section of the study also mentioned treating pain by focusing on “improving sleep, depression/stress and negative affect.”  Interestingly, I just showed you how light is being successfully used to address to all of these (HERE).  As far as exercise, they suggested starting “gently” (especially those of you struggling with FIBROMYALGIA or similar).  Maybe this explains why I’ve become such a huge fan of WBV and use it myself almost every day.

What I found amazing, but not surprising was that when looking at the actual causes of back pain, disc-related pain accounted for less than 5% of all back pain.  OSTEOPOROSIS accounted for even less, and DEGENERATIVE ARTHRITIS accounted for only about one in ten cases.  What was the major culprit in most back pain?  “By far the biggest source of low back pain from what Dr. Willard has found in the literature is myofascial-ligamentous pain, which seems to contribute to about 70% of cases.” 

Again we see the importance of the THORACOLUMBAR FASCIA (or HERE, HERE, HERE, or HERE) as well the reasons it’s important to grasp concepts like UPPER CROSSED and LOWER CROSSED syndromes.  And while there was little detail provided, fascia’s relationship to WHIPLASH INJURIES was also discussed, as was the importance of PROPER BIOMECHANICS on preventing musculoskeletal injuries, particularly to tendons.

Along these same lines, there were biomechanical discussions about the fact that one of PLANTAR FASCIITIS‘ chief characteristics is that the fascia “THICKENS” — something they now believe is likewise happening to the Tensor Fascia Lata muscle in people (mostly runners and jumpers) with ITB problems.  The authors also discussed the relationship between weak feet and PF, suggesting that in societies where no one wears shoes, the population has better arches — still another reason to start a “GROUNDING PROTOCOL” (not to mention it’s benefits your proprioception — one of fascia’s primary functions — HERE or HERE).

One last thing I must mention before winding down is the relationship of fascia to hormones, particularly FEMALE HORMONES.  Dr. Carla Stecco of Italy is one of the world’s leading experts on this relationship between FASCIA AND HORMONES, and had this to say…..

“Another finding important to facial tissue composition is that fascial fibroblasts contain sex hormone receptors, which can affect collagen expression. Dr. Stecco’s team has focused so far on female hormones and found receptors for estrogen, relaxin, and estradiol. These sex hormones, in particular estradiol, stimulate secretion of collagen type 3, which is elastic and organized more like a web; they also seem to decrease secretion of collagen type 1, which produces large bundles of strong collagen fibers to create stiffer and stronger fascia. In addition, fibrillin (a glycoprotein secreted by fibroblasts) was found to increase expression during the peri-ovulatory phase and pregnancy, making fascia more elastic. Increased elasticity in response to sex hormones makes the fascia of the trunk more adaptable to change of volume during pregnancy, and it is valuable to understand the biochemical mechanisms by which these changes occur. Looking at postmenopausal women, Dr. Stecco’s lab found decreased expression of sex hormone receptors, making fasciae less receptive to hormonal input and more likely to develop and maintain stiffness.”

Because fascia is often at the root of any number of PAIN SYNDROMES, what kind of research is being done to help suffering humanity with problems that may very well be fascia-related?  Because “endocannabinoid receptors have been recently identified in fascial fibroblasts,” there is a great deal of work being done trying to influence the INFLAMMATION / FIBROSIS / SCAR TISSUE CONUNDRUM using CBD and similar.  There is also research into using specific enzymes that break down hyaluron to lessen “FASCIAL DENSIFICATION” (something we seem to be doing a pretty good job of her in our clinic — HERE). 

“Clearly, much progress has been made and is being made in this direction. In the meantime, there are many scientifically validated options immediately available to reduce pathology and pain and improve wellness, including manual therapy and exercise.”

Although I would never for even a moment call it comprehensive, at least on some level MY INFLAMMATION-REDUCING PROTOCOL addresses each and every one of the points brought up in this post. If you are looking for more posts on fascia, HERE THEY ARE (or HERE if you want them organized), just follow the links. And if you enjoyed today’s post, don’t forget to like, share or follow on FACEBOOK as it’s still one of the best ways to reach the people you love and value most.  After all, there are growing numbers of researchers touting fascia as both the beginning and the end of all disease and chronic pain processes (HERE).


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