Fascia: Anatomy and Properties
For many surgeons and researchers the Fascia has been viewed as something to move out of the way in order to access and work with the underlying components. If we open an older anatomy book, the Fascia is of course mentioned, but not to the same extent as the muscles and their function as well as precise attachment points.
However, research in recent years have shown that the Fascia not only envelops virtually all parts of the body, from small cells to large muscles, it starts to become even more clear that we can actually find many answers in the structures of the Fascia. Information about both diseases, pain and movement disorders may be found in this tissue.
The Fascia’s location and design
There is currently no established terminology for Fascia. But there are three ways to describe the Fascia so far.
- Membranes or other dissectible connective tissue compositions, including bindings to internal organs and dissectible structures belonging to those..
- Lots of connective tissue large enough to see with the naked eye, it has been noted that the fibers of the Fascia tends to be interwoven, and also includes loose areolar connective tissue such as the superficial connective tissue under the skin.
- Fibrous collagen tissue that is part of the body’s power transmission system (definition from Fascia Research Congress 2015)
The Fascia is the same as collagen connective tissue. The different varieties of the Fascia are named differently depending on where they are and how they are designed. We alternate between this little term connective tissue and Fascia, but it is the same tissue composed of collagenous fibers.
Fascia links together all parts of the body and has a significant role in balance, posture, coordination, and even positioning. It also has a relieving effect and transfers shock and load on to bigger areas to avoid overload.
Most of the blood vessels and nerves run along Fascia membranes, and there are about six times more nerve receptors in the Fascia than in other parts.
Fascia is existent in the entire body and envelops organs and muscles. It holds together the skeletal parts and also forms a fibrous tissue filled with fluid. If we start with the Fascia’s various layers and parts, we have a superficial, subcutaneous Fascia just below the skin. Deep Fascia lies between and around the muscle groups, individual muscles and organs. The areolar Fascia’s is thicker and contains a lot of fluid flowing between the matrixes of fibers that form the tissue.
The different parts of the skeleton are bound together by strong bands of connective tissue – ligaments that attache the joints. The tendons are an extension of muscles so the body can be tapered in the extremities and so that power can be transmitted from a little distance. Another function is to with muscular power release the tendon to get higher function on the muscle’s work, like a spring that jolts away. An example is the gazelle, which bounces forward with minimal effort.
An aponeuros is a sclera with fibers running both longitudinal and transverse. Aponeuros’s are present in palms, soles, in the abdominal wall and in the eye. They have few nerve endings and blood vessels unlike most connective tissue membranes.
Fascia: a suit that envelops everything. Without beginning, without end.
The Composition of the Tissue
The most present cell type in the extracellular matrix (connective tissue network) is fibroblasts. They can change very quickly depending on the load and are converted quickly. Our lifestyle and stress affects the building of connective tissue, which can quickly thicken and change.
THIS IS WHAT CONNECTIVE TISSUE CONSISTS OF
Collagen: the tissue’s glue that holds it together. Built of proteins bundled together into varying types of fibers. Collagen gives stature, form and stability to the body.
Fibroblasts: Cells that secrete collagen proteins. When fibroblasts are stretched or pressed, they can double their production.
Collagenase: Secretes enzymes that break down the peptide bonds in collagen, to prevent abnormal collagen growth during for example scarring.
Myofibroblasts: Arises from fibroblasts that have been stimulated to change their shape and function. These have similar character as smooth muscle cells, and can be contracted. These come into play in the repair of damaged tissue. A major trauma is required for this process to start.
Soft muscle cells: Are obviously present in soft muscle tissue, but surprisingly also in the connective tissue. These can perform slow involuntary contractions and may therefore create movement in the connective tissue.
Integrins: A protein that is vital for cell-to-cell communication in the extracellular matrix (ECM). The integrins binds together the ECM to all cell membranes and can communicate to the cell what, is happening outside. The cell cannot just “taste” the chemical environment, but also knows what is happening in that environment.
Fibronectin: glue-like substance that integrins adhere to.
Elastin: Allows the body to regain its original shape after stretching.
Fibrillin: Molds elastic fibers that give strength and flexibility to the connective tissue.
Fat: Shock absorbing and insulating.
Transforming growth factor: Protein that controls growth
The Fascia’s slide bearings: Contains proteoglycans and hyaluronic acid
Stimulation of connective tissue provides an increased volume of the fluid filled slide bearings.
Most sensory receptors are located in the superficial connective tissue and it explains why many manual superficial therapies hurt. It also explains the nonspecific pain that can occur in large areas, and which can be released during effective treatment of connective tissue.
It seems that vibration therapy can release locked nerve signals that cause muscles and connective tissue to keep a constant state of contraction. Muscles that have been in convulsions for a long time can quickly regain their normal muscle tone from vibration therapy that affects the receptors in the connective tissue and muscle spindles.
As previously stated, the connective tissue contains up to six times more nerve endings and is very important for the body’s functioning in general. If the fascia has decreased function, that disrupts the nervous system as well, a negative spiral is initiated.
Understanding Fascia in 10 minutes – the must see documentary
In early 2013, a German documentary was broadcast based on the latest research on the Fascia. It provides a very basic introduction for newcomers. The entire documentary is just over 30 minutes, but for those who want to quickly get an overview, we have cut together a shorter version:
- Why they have not been able to examine Fascia until now
- Travel into the body – what Fascia looks like on the inside
- Graphic explaining how the Fascia affects the immune and nerve signals, among other things
- Why the Fascia is vital for our movement
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Travel into the body – what the Fascia looks like on the inside
Dr. Jean Claeude Guimberteau takes us on a fascinating journey into the skin. With small camcorders, he has managed to capture alive Fascia. As we have previously seen Fascia during dissection of dead people and animals, Guimberteaus film gives us a deeper understanding of how living tissue functions and how complex, but ingenious our body actually is.
- What Fascia looks like – a film of living tissue
- Marvel at how beautiful you are inside ?
- English commentary and music
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