What is Fascia?
Fascia is defined as the
"soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body"
Robert Schleip et al
Fascia is flexible fibrous connective tissue and similar to ligaments and tendons has collagen as its major component. However, they differ in their location and function: ligaments join one bone to another bone, tendons join muscle to bone, and fasciae surround muscles and other structures.
Consisting of sheets of connective tissue which attach, stabilise, enclose and separate muscles and other internal organs fascia is classified by layer; superficial, visceral and deep. In its normal relaxed state, it has a wavy, pattern parallel to the direction of pull however when injured it has a more irregular pattern
Previously given little thought, considered passive, fascia used to be seen as the stuff that needed to be cleaned away to get to the interesting bits beneath. However, in recent times its full role has begun to be appreciated.
How Does It Affect Me?
Recently the complex nature of fascia has become far more understood, aided by advances in microscopy that allow us to image it.
Its network-like nature and the sheer number of receptors mean fascia is now viewed as one of the richest sensory organs in the body. This network of sensory receptors means that fascia has significant roles to play in proprioception; the sense of joint position and/or motion and interoception; the sense of the physiological condition of the body*. All this means that many now view fascia, and its held movement patterns, as a source of pain.
By working with the fascia; through changing movement patterns with Pilates or stretching restricted areas with Rossiter, we work in partnership with the body using the natural elastic nature of fascia to relieve pain at its source.
*R. Schleip 'The Tensional Network of the Human Body'
How do you work with the fascia if you can’t see it?
Although I can’t see the fascia like I can the bones on an x-ray, the lines of pull or compensation patterns in how someone stands or moves give clues as to what could be happening within the fascia. Having originally trained as a Radiographer I can visualize the movement and skeleton easily and I then use The Anatomy Trains principles developed by Thomas Myers to ‘read’ the lines of compensation and then inform any program of movement or stretching from a myofascial perspective whether that be Pilates or Rossiter stretching.
Also, when performing Rossiter Stretching sessions I can usually feel areas of tightness through my feet, this is a skill learnt and honed as a Rossiter Stretching coach.