What is Fascia?

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Fascia is essentially all of the connective tissue in the body. It is a tough covering, much like a sausage casing, that surrounds every muscle. It forms a vast supporting network found throughout the body and is continuous from head to toe It is the white in the picture shown here. The tendons that join the muscle to the bone, the joint capsules and the ligaments are all fascia. Scar tissue and adhesions occur within the fascia; these areas are typically more restricted and disorganized.

In some places the fascia is thinner than nylon pantyhose, but in other places, such as the Iliotibial band on the outside of the leg, it can be much thicker. Fascia is extremely strong.

Click here to get a 3-D viewing of the fascia of the thigh (muscles are removed and only fascia remains): http://homepage.mac.com/jefflinn/fascia.html

Why is Fascia Important?

Fascia thickens and hardens where there is chronic tension. Structural Integration practitioners consider fascia the "organ of form." Like a coiled telephone cord, fascia holds imprints of our posture and old injuries. Thus, the fascia dictates our shape and freedom of movement. All the nerves and blood vessels run through the fascia. (See photos at right and below.) Therefore, if the connective tissue is tight, the associated tissues will have poor nutrient exchange. This exacerbates any painful situation because toxic metabolic waste products build up which will further aggravate pain receptors. This creates a vicious cycle by creating more muscle tension, leading to further thickening and hardening of the fascia, which will further limit mobility.

Fascia from behind the knee
Fascia from behinf the shin
Fascia from behind the knee (top image) and on the shin (bottom image). Note small blood vessels in the lower picture.


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Fascia from the underside of the sternum
Fascia from the gluteal muscle
Fascia from the underside of the sternum (top image). Note how the fibers look like crystals. Fascia   extends between individual muscle fibers which have been teased out from the gluteal muscle (bottom image).

Fascia is composed mainly of collagen fibers, together with water and other proteins which provide a glue-like quality. Due to the regular alignment of the fibers, fascia often has a crystal-like appearance. The connective tissue fibers extend deep in between individual muscle cells and between practically all cells of the body.

Fascia tends dry out as we age, becoming stiff and tight. The manipulations of Structural Integration help to stretch, loosen and rehydrate the tissue so it can be more supple and resilient. Regular movement of the fascia through exercise and bodywork helps to greatly reduce the fascia from stiffening.

Color photos by Ron Thompson.