What is Fascia?
Fascia is a tissue that ‘wraps’ organs and muscles akin to a bandage. The superficial fascia extends just underneath the skin; the deep fascia surrounds and wraps muscles and organs and inter-connects them. Arguably, a lining of the body cavity forming sub-cavities for different organs can also be classified as fascia – the visceral fascia.
The fascia can be comprehended as comprising sheets of white fibrous tissue, which is tensile and formed of collagen fibres and tensile elastic fibres. At some locations the fascia sheets are separated by ‘loose’ fascia containing a slippery substance to allow relative sliding between fascia sheets.
Latest research about fascia in our bodies
Fascia overlies and shields underlying tissue, preventing easy and clear access to muscles and organs. Anatomists cast this overlying fascia aside without appreciating, or fully appreciating, the importance of fascia. Fascia has been attracting serious and focused attention only for the last two decades – since about 2000. It has now been found to be a tissue of biological activity containing nerve endings on par with the shin, which can sense pressure, temperature, movement and also pain. It is argued, tentatively, that fascia can be classified as an organ in its own right.
Luigi Stecco, an Italian, developed a physical therapy (fascial manipulation) to treat a variety of pains – from headaches to muscle and joint pain, based on the understanding that fascia can become stiff, and can be rendered supple through massage. His daughter, Carla Stecco, is one of the prominent researchers focusing on fascia.
Treatment and pain in fascia
As opposed to localised pain, fascia is involved in radiating pain which cannot be pin pointed, such as fibromyalgia, linked to inflammation of fascia. Prolonged pain triggers the body to become more sensitive to pain.
Pain of the lower back is notoriously difficult to pin point and treat. The thoracolumbar fascia, located in the lower base, acts as a hub for connecting various muscle groups of the trunk. The thoracolumbar fascia is a receptor of tension from arms, spine and abdomen, creating a pain sensation.
Whether massage is a long-term relief or cure for stiff fascia still requires research. It is now accepted that stretching does provide relief from ‘stuck’ fascia layers.
Research into fascia is gathering momentum and promises to yield a further and significant arrow in the pain-relieving quiver.