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Pain Relief: Why the Latest Research Shows that Fascia is no Longer the Red-Headed Stepchild of the Biomedical Community

For those who don’t know, the term “red-headed stepchild” (there is much debate about the phrase’s origin) implies that someone or something has been neglected, mistreated or unwanted. Historically speaking, this is exactly where FASCIA RESEARCH lives used to live. Thanks to a growing number of research experts, practitioners who are increasingly addressing FASCIAL ADHESIONS, and yes, even technology, a new world is opening up for those interested enough to dig in. In fact, it could be argued that fascia is rapidly becoming one of the hottest topics in biomedical research!

Although I’ve been gone for awhile (I have been on a two year sabbatical from blogging), I’m getting back in the groove of doing what I’ve done for decades — combing thru mountains of peer-reviewed research and breaking it down to bite-sized morsels that my patients (and readers) can wrap their minds around. Chew on these seemingly crazy ideas because the knowledge you gain will be worth it. And while you may not always agree with my interpretations or conclusions, realize that for many of you, stepping out of the box that is ‘Westernized Medicine’ is the only hope you have of truly addressing (let alone solving) your chronic pain and/or chronic conditions.

A Quick History Lesson in Fascia Research

In August of last year a group of four medical professors from Iran published a paper in The Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine titled A Brief Historical Overview of the Anatomy of Fascia in Medieval Persian Medicine. After revealing that four different authors of medical texts from the 8th to 13th centuries were actually writing about fascia as it pertains to LIGAMENTS, BONES, TENDONS, RIBS, blood vessels and even blood itself, as well as the lymphatics (ALL THREE FOUND HERE), organs, BODY CAVITIES, the BRAIN / CORD and even babies developing in their mother’s womb. Below are some cherry-picked tidbits.

Maraqq is the fascia surrounding the digestive tract and is located under the skin and abdominal muscles. Baritun is a thin, fragile and spidery fascia lining the abdominopelvic organs (stomach, liver, spleen, kidneys, bladder, uterus, testicles, omentum, vessels, nerves and so on). According to the Canon of Medicine, there is a relationship between brain and abdomen through fasciae and nerve sheaths. Therefore, in patients who experience certain gastrointestinal manifestations, a higher prevalence of brain diseases such as epilepsy, headache and melancholia may occur….. In some diseases, massage and manual therapy are used on the vertebral column to erode some of the confined cerebral wastes through the fascia surrounding the spinal cord and in gastric diseases, use of abdominal massage and applying oils through the anterior abdominal wall have been recommended.

Interestingly, the authors said that these scientists of antiquity believed that fascia was the chief component of the peripheral nervous system. Why, contrary to what many may assume today, might this have been ahead of its time — possibly way ahead of its time? Remember that in the same way that the Gut acts as a SECOND BRAIN, FASCIA ACTS AS A SECOND NERVOUS SYSTEM as well, carrying proprioceptive and other messages at, believe it or not, far higher speeds than impulses carried by nerves (FASCIA ALSO TRANSMITS INFORMATION BY ACTING AS AN ENDOCRINE ORGAN). In fact, the links in the previous paragraph make the case that these ancient authors might all might have been ahead of their time in many different ways in regards to fascia. Now let’s travel from Persia to Italy.

I’m not sure what it is with Italy and fascia research, but after combing thru thousands of studies on PubMed over the past several days, I realized yet again just how true this is, with the heaviest of the heavy hitters in the field — the STECCOS and BRUNO BORDONI — being Italian (along with dozens of others).

Speaking of Bordoni, he was lead author on an educational paper published for StatPearls (Anatomy, Fascia). In it he rehashed some familiar territory, saying that much of the disagreement about what fascia really is and what it really does has to do with semantics. We will address this truism in a future post when I tackle yet another two-part paper he was lead author on, but suffice it to say, what I have shown you about fascia on my site thus far (YOU CAN FIND MUCH OF IT IN MY FASCIA / SCAR TISSUE SUPER-POST) is confirmed over and over again in Bordoni’s prolific studies.

The most interesting part of this literature review was what his team said about fascia as it relates to emotions. That’s right; emotions. Re-read this sentence in light of the following quote and let the sheer magnitude of what the authors are saying sink in — that the health of your fascia can affect your emotional health. And even though it was not stated overtly, we know that the reverse pathway is valid as well; emotions can affect your fascial health.

The fascial unity influences not only movement but also emotions. A dysfunction of the fascial system that is perpetuated in every-day movements can cause an emotional alteration of the person. This emotional alteration could be established originating from constant myofascial nonphysiological afferents, which would bring the emotional state and the myofascial pathology to the same level. In fact, the position of the body stimulates areas of emotionality, and the presence of myofascial alterations leads to postural alterations.

Although different in many ways, this quote reminded me of his research paper, IS FASCIA AWARE? In English, Bordoni’s team is saying that POSTURAL ALTERATIONS and HIGHLY REPETITIVE MOVEMENTS create aberrant sensory (afferent) function, which in turn cycles back thru the system, leading to more of the same — the proverbial VICIOUS CYCLE!

After going into some detail concerning the complex neurology of fascia, Bordoni et al made this incredible statement. “Interoception can modulate the exteroceptive representation of the body as well as pain tolerance; a dysregulation of the pathways that manage or stimulate the interoception could cause a distortion of one’s body image and influence emotionality.” What are interoception and exteroception? Interoception are neurological input derived internally, while exteroception is the opposite (HERE is the article I wrote on this subject).

Naturally, Dr. Bordoni and his team of fascia research experts delved into CHRONIC PAIN, including CENTRALIZED PAIN. They also discussed what a PRO-INFLAMMATORY STATE (the opposite of an anti-inflammatory state) does to fascia —- never forget that inflammation always leads to fibrosis, the medical term for microscopic scar tissue (HERE). As shocking as it may sound on the surface, fibrosis has been shown to be the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH WORLD-WIDE. Finally, Bordoni drops, if accurate, what I believe is nothing short of a bombshell — a true medical M.O.A.B. (mother of all bombshells) — for anyone on the chronic pain spectrum .

Connective tissue can directly send pain signals; it possesses nociceptors capable of translating a mechanical stimulus into painful information, and if there are non-physiological mechanical stimuli, proprioceptors can become nociceptors. The nociceptors themselves synthesize neuropeptides that can alter the surrounding tissue, and form an inflammatory environment. The epineurium and perineurium are part of the fascial system innervated by nervi nervorum, which if in contact with pro-inflammatory molecules can cause sensations of pain and create a vicious circle….. as connective tissue is much more sensitive to nociceptor activation than muscle tissue.

Proprioceptors can become nociceptors.” Are you kidding me? What this means is that in a highly inflammatory state — the state that most of the Westernized world tends to go thru their entire lives in — the nerve endings that sense stretch, pressure and movement, morph into (gulp) pain receptors! In a normally functioning body, stimulating MECHANORECEPTORS / PROPRIOCEPTION should actually diminish and calm pain. In this case (he mentions FIBROMYALGIA / CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME by name) Bordoni says that if fascia becomes fibrotic, its multiple layers do not glide on each other in a smooth manner (AMAZING 10 SECOND VIDEO EXAMPLE). Movement not only becomes “uncordinated” (for Pete’s sake, look at the video!) but the damaged tissue actually creates increasing amounts of “anaerobic metabolites, which will be recorded by the central nervous system as fatigue. An example is fibromyalgia.

What is the number one “aenerobic metabolite” — one that has huge propensity to cause both pain and an ACIDIC environment? Lactic acid! Think about how many people are literally bathing their most pain-sensitive tissue (fascia) in chronic inflammation and acidity, and then trying to solve the resulting problems with (gulp) THE BIG FIVE. Covering symptoms without as much as addressing underlying cause is never a good thing.

Finally, the fascia research team put together by Dr Bordoni dealt with fascia as related to immune response. Before I delve into this, let’s quickly get a couple things straight — particularly important in our current situation with Covid-19 and all its variants. Follow me down a quick rabbit trail; I promise we will not get too far afield.

Covid-19 is a relatively weak virus that tends to be highly contagious. The first part of this statement is proved by the large percentage of people (as great as 50 or even 60%) who have no symptoms whatsoever, with many more having symptoms, which, when compared to FLU, could only be categorized as mild. The problem with Covid (along with several other viral infections) lies with its increased propensity to cause CYTOKINE STORMS in those with risk factors (obesity, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, frailty, autoimmune conditions, etc). The cytokine storm helps explain why “BOOSTING YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM” is not only rarely a good thing, but is probably the number one factor in our national EPIDEMIC OF AUTOIMMUNITY. Why do I bring all this up?

After specifically discussing the mechanisms whereby abnormally functioning fascia can lead to OSTEOPOROSIS, Bordoni et al makes yet another shocking statement to those who have not done a deep dive into the world of fascia research. Abnormally functioning fascia leads not only to pain but to disease (NUMEROUS POST TITLES SHOWING THIS TO BE FACT). “Many chronic conditions, such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, fibromyalgia, diabetes, always show alterations in the fascial system.” So, fibro (which we have already touched on), DIABETES, COPD, HEART DISEASE, and who knows how many others that he did not list, always display fascial dysfunction. Others in the fascia research community have come to identical conclusions.

OK; knowing these facts is well and good, but for many of you reading this — those struggling to cope with varying degrees of chronic pain or chronic illnesses — what implications, if any, are there for helping suffering humanity? More to the point, what implications, if any, are there for helping you?

In other words, how can you, a chronic pain sufferer, leverage the information in this post in a way that might just help you get better; to actually start regaining control of your life? After all, there’s nothing quite like the EMPOWERMENT YOU GET from getting taking your life back!

I have been helping people do just that for three decades (PATIENT TESTIMONIALS) thanks largely to effectively dealing with their FASCIAL ADHESIONS. But what if I told you that there were an array of things you could do on your own that have great potential for relieving pain and restoring function — an EXIT STRATEGY if you will? Although far from comprehensive, my SOLVE YOUR BACK PAIN and SOLUTIONS FOR CHRONIC PAIN / CHRONIC DISEASE pages are at the very least, worth a peek.

A quick final word: If you appreciate the mountains of useful information I provide on my site, all completely free, be sure to spread the wealth by liking / following / sharing on FACEBOOK. It’s probably the easiest way to reach those you love and care about most —- your family, friends, and support group(s).

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