Part 1 ; What is Fascia?

Over the previous few years, fascia has gained a lot of attention. At times the research and people opinions can be conflicting, however the more we learn about the fascial system, the more we realise its importance in a huge amount of functions. If you’re a trainer or therapist working with clients, or a client yourself who’s suffering from aches and pains, fascia could be a key structure to learn about. The following 3 posts takes some of the basic research from our course manual for our fascial treatment concept course, and hopefully will give a slight insight into the interesting world of fascia!

The fascial system builds a three-dimensional continuum of soft, collagen-containing, loose and dense fibrous connective tissue, that permeates the body and enables all body systems to operate in an integrated manner (Zugel et al., 2018). Fascia is primarily made up of collagen, and attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs (Kumka, 2012). Fascia is classified by layer, as superficial fascia, deep fascia, and visceral or parietal fascia, or by its function and anatomical location (Kumka, 2012).

It is extremely rich in nerve receptors and actually contains six times the amount, in comparison to other parts of the body (Kumka, 2012). Due to the rich innervation it has a strong influence on the nervous system, as well as a strong potential to cause pain and dysfunction across the whole body.

A wide range of studies have shown that injury to fascial tissues can cause a significant decrease in sporting performance, as well as have a strong impact on progressive musculoskeletal disorders including Lower Back Pain (LBP) (Zugel et al., 2018 ; Wilke et al., 2017 ; Ljungqvist, 2008). A variety of different factors can lead to fascial dysfunction, in figure 5 below, a chart showing the impact of different factors on stiffness of the fascia is shown.

Figure 1 ; Factors influencing the fascial system (Zugel et al., 2019)

From figure 1, it is clear to see how many factors can influence the mechanical stiffness of fascia. This is also just a small cross-section of some of the contributing factors. Movement and exercises have been shown to positively affect the fascia, in contrast lack of movement as seen in a sedentary based job, have been shown to do the opposite (Zugel, et al., 2019). Injuries such as overuse or trauma, have also been shown to negatively impact the fascia (Zugel et al., 2019, Chaitow, 2018).

In order for the fascia to function properly, it needs to stay hydrated and the fascial layers need to be able to slide on top of each other (Myers, 2014). When factors such as lack of movement, age and injury affect the fascia, a range of different adaptations occur that modify tissue function and health. This can ultimately affect the way we move and lead to a range of different movement dysfunctions as well as cause pain.

From all the above research, it is possible to see that fascia is highly complex and can affect movement, pain and sporting performance. These are key areas that we work with as therapists and trainers, as well as key areas that clients are interested in. So if you’re working with clients suffering from chronic injuries, suffering from one yourself or wanting to improve your posture or sporting performance, have you thought about the fascial system? Often it get neglected, but a clear relation between these factors can be seen.

Fascia research is now showing its importance in to a range of other body functions, however these three posts are only going to look at the basic science behind movement, dysfunction and pain. Keep an eye out for our next post, “Part 2 ; Fascia in movement”.

To learn more about our Fascial Treatment Concept courses visit our training academy link here – https://theperformancezoneuk.co.uk/trainers-and-therapists/

References

Kumkar, M. and Bonar, J. (2012). Fascia: a morphological description and classification system based on a literature review. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Associations, 3.

Ljungqvist, A., Schwellnus, M., Bachl, N., Collins, M., Cook, J., Khan, K., Maffulli, N., Pitsiladis, Y., Riley, G., Golspink, G., Venter, D., Derman, E., Engebretsen, L. and Volpi, P. (2008). International Olympic Committee Consensus Statement: Molecular Basis of Connective Tissue and Muscle Injuries in Sport. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 27(1), pp.231-239.

Myers, T. (2014). Anatomy trains. 1st ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.

Wilke, J., Schleip, R., Yucesoy, C. and Banzer, W. (2017). Not merely a protective packing organ? A review of fascia and its force transmission capacity. Journal of Applied Physiology, 124(1), pp.234-244.

Zügel, M., Maganaris, C., Wilke, J., Jurkat-Rott, K., Klingler, W., Wearing, S., Findley, T., Barbe, M., Steinacker, J., Vleeming, A., Bloch, W., Schleip, R. and Hodges, P. (2018). Fascial tissue research in sports medicine: from molecules to tissue adaptation, injury and diagnostics: consensus statement. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 52(23), pp.1497-1497.