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The Fascia Explained


Movement, support, stability, blood flow, fluid dynamics, nerve transmission, and more—it all happens in the connective tissue we call fascia.

In the illustration by Frank H. Netter above, notice how each group of muscle surrounding the bone is separated and surrounded by a translucent, fibrous connective tissue. This tissue is the fascia. It serves as both a boundary and a point of connection between every structure within the body. It is similar to tendons and ligaments in its material (which is mostly collagen), but its function is different. Whereas ligaments connect bone to bone and tendons attach bone to muscle, the layers of fasciae encase organs, muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels. When the body is in motion, the fascia provides the structure, support, and lubrication for the coordinated movement of its internal components.

The Function of the Fascia

The fascia itself is living tissue containing nerve endings, and therefore it also provides a network of communication between the central nervous system and the organs and tissues of the entire body. In fact, scientists now believe that the other internal structures—bones, organs, blood, nerves, vessels, etc.—are specialized tissues born from fascia. The similarities between these different types of tissues, rooted in a shared origin, helps explain the interconnectivity of the body, which becomes evident in the phenomenon of referred pain.

Keeping the Fascia Healthy

The health of the fascia can be compromised by two main causes: inflammation and immobility. Inflammation can be caused by injury, overuse, misuse, etc. Immobility occurs from the lack of use or movement. Both inflammation and immobility eventually cause the microfibers of the fascia to dehydrate and thicken. The lack of fluid and movement in between adjacent layers of connective tissues binds them together, which reduces range of motion, impedes blood flow, and impinges nerve fibers.

If not addressed, the thickened microfibers of damaged fascia become like an internal cast for the body. Even after a traumatized area has healed, these adhesions do not go away; they accumulate over time, causing increased stiffness, pain, and even a burning sensation as we age.

Therapies like acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, trigger point dry needling, cupping, guasha, and other manual techniques each work in their own way to address aspects of fascia health. All of the therapies provided at South Jersey Sports Acupuncture work directly with the fascia. With skillful application, they can be used to combat and release the stiffness and tension caused by the accumulation of fascial adhesions. Many times, immediate relief can be felt as health is restored to the fascial network.