Our natural bodies are affected by the Laws of Physics and respond to physical therapies. These physical therapies, in turn, stimulate energetic, chemical and structural changes in the body. When you stimulate body tissues, like a pebble dropped into water, there is a ripple effect. Mechanical stimulation distorts soft tissue, altering the shapes of cells. Our cells translate mechanical force into new chemical information.
With regular bodywork, collagen fibers are stimulated to re-orient from a chaotic to an aligned pattern. Tissues function with improved strength and elasticity. This represents healthier connective tissue. Acupuncture, Manual Bodywork, and Yoga stimulate connective tissue or fascial layers in the body. The fascia is what ties our body together, supports the organs, and fosters communication throughout the body.
In order to more fully appreciate the impact of bodywork, it is helpful to understand the exciting new science on connective tissue or fascia. The ensuing quotes are all from the book "Fascial Dysfunction, Manual Therapy Approaches" by Leon Chaitow, ND, DO, 2014. In Dr. Chaitow's words, the study of fascia "has important implications for our understanding of normal movement and posture, as well as therapies using mechanical stimulation of connective tissue, including physical therapy, massage, and acupuncture" (pg. 17).
The Human Fascial System
In 2007, the first multidisciplinary International Congress on Fascia Research was held at Harvard Medical School in Boston. Leading scientists and clinical practitioners met to compare findings, ask questions and convene on the rapidly growing appreciation of the role of connective tissue, or fascia.
For generations, connective tissue was regarded as the cut-off trimmings on the floor of the anatomy lab; necessary to remove, in favor of viewing the more glamorous organs, muscles, nerves and joints. We are coming to appreciate that fascia permeates the entire body and serves a multitude of crucial purposes and functions.
"The fascial body is one large networking organ, with many bags and hundreds of rope-like local densifications, and thousands of pockets within pockets, all interconnected by sturdy septa as well as by looser connective tissue layers" (pg. 16).
Fascia is "an innervated, continuous, functional organ of stability and motion that is formed by 3-dimensional collagen matrices. This emphasizes that fascia is not a passive and merely supporting structure, but rather 'a dynamic and mutable system' (Swanson 2013). This system manifests as different kinds of connective tissue, forming a continuous tensional network, throughout the micro- and macroscopic levels of body architecture (Langevin et al. 2011)" (pg. 179).
It is the inter-connectedness of this tissue system that makes acupuncture, massage and bodywork therapies so holistically effective. Therapy applied in any part of the body affects the whole.
- "Fascia is connected to all other tissues of the body, microscopically and macroscopically- so that its three-dimensional collagen matrices are architecturally continuous- from head to toe, from individual cells to major organs."
- "Fascia is part of all the soft tissues of the body."
- "Fascia binds, packs, protects, envelopes and separates tissues."
- "Fascia invests and connects structures, providing the scaffolding that permits and enhances transmission forces."
- "Fascia has sensory functions, from the microscopic level (for example, individual cell-to-cell communication) to the involvement of large fascial sheets, such as the thoracolumbar fascia (TLF)."
- "Fascia provides the facility for tissues to slide and glide on each other."
- "Fascia also offers a means of energy storage- acting in a spring-like manner via pre-stressed fascial structures, such as the large tendons and aponeuroses of the leg, during the gait-cycle, for example. Think of kangaroos and cats!"
- "Fascia has combined qualities of strength and elasticity… of biotensegrity… resilience."
- "Fascia has important colloidal viscoelastic, elastic and plastic properties."
- "Fascia is richly innervated- participating in proprioception and sensing of pain."
- "Fascia is functional, not passive. It is dynamic and active- participating in movement and stability" (pgs. 6-7).
- "Visceral fascia can be traced from the cranial base into the pelvic cavity. It forms the packing surrounding the body cavities where it is compressed against the somatic body wall. It also forms the packing around visceral organs, many of which it reaches by passing along the suspensory ligaments such as the mesenteries. This fascia also functions as a conduit for the neurovascular and lymphatic bundles as they radiate outward from the thoracic, abdominal, and pelvic mediastinum to reach specific organs" (pg. 18).
There are twelve 'tracks' or 'anatomy trains' described by Tom Myers in 2009. These muscle chains create lines of tensional pull which, when all working together, create the frame of the human body. "Tensional forces resulting from muscular contractions and load-demands are spread to adjacent- and distant- tissues via facial sheets, as well as by means of densified threads, strings, straps, wrappings, and rope-like connections (tendons, ligaments, retinacula etc.)" (pg. 16)
Our body gradually adapts over time, into global muscular patterns. Whether long-term work-related or coping after an injury, these patterns can be unsound and slowly tug the body out of alignment. Improving the biomechanics of an area must involve improving soft-tissue health and function. However, due to the toughness of the fascial layers that interpenetrate all throughout the body, it is challenging to change or affect the health of the fascia.
Gentle but firm movement, pressure, and manipulation affect a biological change in the fascia. Consistently delivered manual therapies can bring about "deformation of the collagen component" which "gives the molecules and collagen fibrils enough time to reorganize. When this pressure is applied for a long period, respecting that limit which keeps the integrity of the tissue… it affects the viscosity of the underlying substance in which the collagen fibers are immersed, increasing hydration at the site. As the collagen fibers are released, they reorganize and remodel themselves" (pg. 43).
Moisture and Flexibility
Fascia is fluid-rich. Our body's relative ability to create, sustain and manage moisture plays a role. "Fascia comprises a complex variety of bags, septa, pockets and envelopes that contain, separate and divide tissues and structures- while in many instances allowing a sliding, gliding facility that provides the basis for frictionless movement between soft tissue layers. This can be lost or reduced by adhesions and increased density" (pg. 16).
"When Klingler and colleagues (2004) examined the effects of stretching on the water-binding capabilities of the ground substance of pig connective tissue, they found that the water content reduced- as though squeezing a sponge. This effectively eased the stiffness of the tissues. After around 30 minutes the water content increased again so that several hours after the stretch there was an increase in the elastic stiffness of the tissue.
They concluded that fascia seems to adapt hydrodynamically in response to mechanical stimuli, such as compression and stretch, largely due to a sponge-like mechanical squeezing and refilling effect in the bio-architecture of water-loving GAG's and proteoglycans.
This suggests that at least some of the effects of manual therapy and exercise- relative to ease of movement, stiffness, etc.- relates to changes in the water content of connective tissues. This has potential relevance for reducing edema, as well as for increasing the water supply to under-hydrated proteins, allowing for increased extensibility of the tissues" (pg. 15).
Many people think that symptoms of pain, stiffness, swelling, atrophy, and loss of range of motion are an unavoidable part of "the aging process." Current science and clinical results encourage us to re-examine our beliefs in what is possible with our bodies as we age. A forward-thinking approach involves body-consciousness, an active lifestyle, and integrative therapeutic care.
Acupuncture stimulates complex and natural energetic re-balancing, involving the body's own 'electricity' ('qi'), healing mechanisms and hormones, and releases chronic muscle tension. Contact Stephanie Southard LAc. at Fair Skies Acupuncture, 8 Green Pastures Lane, Kent, CT.
Reiki, Energetic and Body Work manipulate the body with various pressures, affecting energy and fluid flow through tissues and muscles. Personal energetic patterns can be reset to better health and resonance. Acupressure and Reiki stimulate muscular, nervous and glandular health. Email Carly for Intuitive Reiki Healing.
Yoga instruction allows you to learn how to feel and practice whole-body alignment, relaxation, and movement. This mindful body-training strengthens your mind-body connection, your core, your global posture, and the health of all your movements. Importantly, this helps to free up breathing and relieve unhealthy stress on joints. Connective tissue is stimulated and reshaped through bodywork. Please contact Alina Hernandez at Kent Yoga & Bodyworks, 2 Green Pastures Lane, Kent, CT.
Many chronic health problems can be reflections of musculoskeletal and visceral (organ) pathology, with the fascial layers running in between, throughout and around, acting as communicative throughways. Traditional medicines believe that superficial and internal conditions are energetically intertwined due to natural connections throughout the body.