Fasciae are connective tissue structures that pervade the entire body. In the 1950s, the American biochemist Ida Rolf examined fasciae for the first time. She believed that the connective tissue or fasciae played a greater role in muscle pain than muscles did. This resulted in rolfing, a manual body therapy that affects the network of fasciae in the human body. For a long time, it was unclear what really had an effect on the connective tissue and the role that it actually played. Today, we know that fasciae cover all our muscles as well as all our organs. Muscles are only able to transfer their complete force through them. Fasciae contain all nerve endings, receptors and lymphatic fluids and thereby cover our bodies like a network. Fasciae are flexible and can change.
Fascia is ‘connective tissue’, organized as an interconnected, multi-dimensional network. It wraps around every cell, tissue and organ. Think of it like a web that supports the bones, muscles, etc.; without it the body would fall apart. Fascia is formed by undulated collagen fibres and elastic fibres arranged in distinct layers, and within each layer the fibres are aligned in a different direction. Due to its undulated collagen fibres, fascia can be stretched and, thanks to its elastic and ‘smooth muscle’-like fibres, it can then return to its original resting state.
Given that fascia adapts to muscle stretch, it is unable to transmit force like a tendon or an aponeurosis (thicker, connective tissue that binds and protects; such as that covering the carpal tunnel of the wrist). Please view this beautiful, but anatomical video displaying our fascial types. Subcutaneous connective tissue forms a very elastic, sliding membrane essential for thermal regulation, metabolic exchanges and the protection of vessels and nerves, whereas the deep fascia envelops the muscles, and surrounds the muscle’s aponeurosis up to where it inserts onto bone.
While part of the fascia is anchored to bone, part is also always free to slide. The free part of the fascia allows the muscular traction, or the myofascial vectors, to converge at a specific point. It is hypothesised, that the richly innervated fascia could be maintained in a resting state of tension due to the different muscular fibres that insert onto it. Due to this optimal resting state, or basal tension, of the fascia, the free nerve endings and receptors within the fascial tissue are primed to perceive any variation in tension and, therefore, any movement of the body, whenever it occurs.
So what happens when fascia gets tight, distorted or rigid? Well, that is where that tight feeling in your hamstrings comes from, creates those lumpy looking chunks in your rear end, and causes pain like plantar fasciitis. As you age, workout and sit still your fascia becomes a little more sticky and creates adhesions. These adhesions can restrict movement, create a tight feeling around the muscle like wearing jeans that are way too tight, and lead to injury if left untreated.
When we get injured or engage in repetitive actions that don’t have much variety in range of motion our body may over time develop excess fascia between muscle tissue like the image above as if a spider was weaving a web. This can create cross-linkages and fascial adhesions that begin to restrict our ‘usual movement’ which over time creates other lines of tension that are unnecessary on joints and muscles. This increases the likelihood for fascial restrictions which have the capacity of creating up to 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch in a restricted area. This intense pressure can compromise our physiology and result in chronic pain and dysfunction.
Shockwave therpy is being increasingly used for treating fascial structures, alongside conventional treatments – with excellent results. Dr Stephan Swart and Dr Carlo Di Maio are two physicians who used shock wave therapy to treat fascia-related problems early on. Based on their ideas and experiences, in collaboration with STORZ MEDICAL the new PERI-ACTOR® transmitters were developed to facilitate and optimise fascial therapy.