The Fascia is one of the things that are affected by many allied health professionals nowadays. Health professionals such as osteopaths, physical therapist, occupational therapist, Bowen therapist, cranio-sacral therapy, massage therapist and sports massage therapist. It is one of the targets of the treatment approaches of various allied medical professionals. It is also one of the most recent body systems that are being studied in the 20th century. If you were one of the people studying basic anatomy on the cadaver what is a fascia for you? When I was still undergoing my occupational therapy studies it is basically one of the first things I took off the muscle after the skin as it was just Glab wrap to hold the muscle together. It is important to note that it was quite easy to tear off the muscle at that time I just went pull and rip and the fascia disappeared never to be seen on that part of the cadaver again or so I thought back then.
To better understand the fascia I guess it is important to dive into a bit of history. If you were to browse about the history of anatomy the fascia was always seen on the drawing on the body parts but if you were to look at the parts it was just usually there to be location markers. It was just there so as to help the person studying anatomy like giving familiar landmarks to a friend so as to not get lost on their way to your house. Most of the time fascia was seen as either a landmark or just as a covering. So during all those years the function of fascia was pretty much a unknown. During that time a lot of treatments are affecting the fascia of a person but it was unknown that the fascia does those things I think the techniques go from the stomach rubbing for pain, the Bowen Technique by Tom Bowen, the gentle touch of Taichi and many others. It was only recently if I remember correctly the 19th century that the function of fascia was noticed by the medical community. So right now from the status of just being a wrapper like a sausage wrapper it got a function.
So what is the function of fascia? First of all fascia acts as a means to hold everything in place. When I say everything I really meant everything. I do not remember who the person is but someone painstakingly took the fascia of the person off and it still resembles a person when inflated. By the way do not ask me how he got the holes filled don’t know how to answer that either. Second function is it acts as the bodies bondage it tries to brace injured parts and since fascia is everywhere it does not just affect muscles it also affects the organs, nerves, bones and lymphatics. It is the reason while sometimes the injury is already gone but the pain still remains but this is another topic by itself. Third function is that in some ways it seems to try to alleviate the stress on injured muscles by trying to spread out the tension gathered on the injured part. It is the reason why some people tend to go to certain comfortable positions that tends to compromise other body parts. Fourth function is it somehow helps the body parts to glide with each other. I think this is the reason why the injured parts of the body have stiff fascia and is also one of the reason why you need to constantly drink water since when fascia dry up they get stiff. Also it is also important to note that while the fascia looks like a wanton wrapper it has the actin-myosin or the ones contracting in the muscles but in a way they are muscles that do not contract during command they involuntarily contract.
So we go to the all-important question can fascia be stretched. I think one of the things I heard during my time of doing osteopathy and manual therapy is that you will need a steam roller to stretch the fascia. I think if I remember correctly they are quite heavy and are not necessarily pocket sized. I think it is true and not true at the same time. It is true that fascia cannot be stretched by stretching techniques and personally I think foam rolling is not targeting the fascia itself but the muscles. So what can you do to the fascia. In simple terms the fascia is like a thick piece of cloth and the only thing you can do is influence the fibers to loosen up and more than usually this does not happen during the time the fascia was influenced. So in a sense the body reacts to the fascia in a slow way and this is the reason why influencing the fascia has a longer lasting effect than stretching the muscles. This is in no way able to last a long time if not maintained and this is not necessarily by techniques used by allied health professionals it has a myriad of ways and each and every one has it’s own advantages and disadvantages but we are not going to talk about it at this time. This is also the reason why sometimes the body feels heavier than usual or is more painful during the adjustment period but these things usually pass after 3 or more days after treatment depending on the skill of the therapist.
How much force is needed to influence fascia. As you might have noted earlier it should not be as heavy as a steam roller or even as heavy as a person it usually is a light tough depending on the technique and depth of the fascia being targeted. The force is usually spread on a large enough area so as to not concentrate the force and will usually take some time. So as the one receiving end of the technique you might not immediately feel anything from the technique. The technique usually causes a bit of heat, increase in the range of the joint movements and decrease in pain.
How long is the usual treatment to influence the fascia? That will depend of the therapist but generally they take about 2-3 treatments before the fascia is more or less set as such might just need a bit of maintenance that will depend of the therapist skills.
Hope fully this will help you understand fascia better. So if you are a curious person hopefully this article satisfied your curiosity. If you are a client hopefully this answered a bit of your questions. If you are an allied medical person hopefully I helped improve your knowledge and somehow improve your skills. If you are a new therapist welcome to the fascinating world of fascia. Hopefully you enjoyed the article. I will be posting an article every week so if you enjoyed this look forward to next weeks article.