Fascia. It's quickly becoming a popular buzzword with massage therapists, chiropractors, and physical therapists. Spend any amount of time in our Beaverton clinic and you'll almost certainly hear the word come up in conversation. But what it is exactly?
Fascia is quite literally the fabric that holds us together. It's the reason we aren't giant bags of amorphous fluid. Fascia is the three-dimensional matrix of proteins acting like a giant, super intelligent, spider web keeping all of our trillions of cells where they need to be so that we can exist and thrive.
In more scientific terms, fascia is defined as all the collagenous-based soft-tissues in the body, including the cells that create and maintain that network of extra-cellular matrix. That broader definition includes not only the traditional web-like fascia, but also tendons, ligaments, bursae, all of the fascia that exists both in and around muscles, and fascia surrounding our organs.
Fascia begins to form around week 2 of embryo development, and continues to fold and grow, forming the fascial matrix that we all have today. And while we can separate out individual fascial fibers and sections, much like muscles, in reality the fascial matrix is one single continuous web spun from the same original thread.
Growing research into fascial has discovered that what we once thought of as an unchanging spider web of protein is actually quite alive and ever-changing. Recent studies have discovered that fascia has the ability to change length rather quickly, providing explanations for why body work and stretching can cause such a dramatic and quick change in joint range of motion. This concept also explains why a change in one body region can effect another, seemingly unrelated, body region.
If you take away one concept from our fascial matrix, it's that the body is truly and quite literally interconnected. No one part of us lives in isolation from another, and small changes in one area can lead to changes in another. It can help to explain how our bodies so quickly and efficiently adapt to change, and why we have an incredible ability to compensate.
If the last several years of research are any indication, the next few decades should yield an explosion of new information about this amazing biological entity. Perhaps it will replace the integumentary system as the largest organ in the human body, or perhaps our ultimate definition will go beyond even that.
Once thing is certain: fascia will continue to fascinate evidence-based therapists, including the chiropractors and massage therapists at Back In Motion, for years to come.
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