Fascia: How Acupuncture Reshapes the Whole Body
Elizabeth Eberius, MAcOM, LAc.
Published April 1, 2019
Fascia is a network of connective tissue that weaves throughout our entire body - connecting the skeleton, muscles, organs, and even vessels. Cadaver labs typically remove this tissue in order to separate various structures. However, recent research reveals the multidimensional role fascia has on our health, including how we feel pain.
Various processes in the body have to synchronize in order for us to live, develop, and move throughout this world. Multiple systems, precisely the musculoskeletal and neurological systems, have to communicate effectively for us to complete most tasks. Different functions, like converting nutrients into energy or cellular growth, are triggered by signals from neighboring tissues.
Internal Communication Network
The ability of cells to communicate through signals originated in single cell organisms, but was essential for evolution. In multicellular organisms like ourselves, cells send and receive messages constantly to coordinate the actions of distant organs, tissues, and other cells.
A group of cells working together is defined as a tissue and several tissues working together comprise an organ.
There are four main types of tissue: muscle, epithelial, connective and nervous. Each is made of specialized cells that are grouped together according to structure and function. Muscle is found throughout the body and even includes organs such as the heart. Our outer layer of skin is epithelial tissue.
Fascia Is A System Not A Fabric
Fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs – weaving throughout our entire body. Like ligaments, aponeuroses, and tendons, fascia is made up of closely packed bundles of collagen fibers, oriented in a wavy pattern parallel to the direction of pull. Fascia is consequently flexible.
This architectural structure is based on the relationship between tension and compression – they work in complementary forces. We can thank Buckminster Fuller for designing the floating tensegrity model in the 1960s to help explain this concept. Tensegrity systems share the burden of absorbing force so that any one part will influence the whole.
Pain is Uniquely Shaped
Fascia lines have some overlap with the meridians of acupuncture, but the two are not equivalent. These lines of pull affect the structure and function of the body. Through injury or compensations, unique strains and connections may start to redefine these lines.
In other words, our body reshapes itself depending on the forces it’s repeatedly subject to. In bones osteoblasts fortify bone along lines of mechanical stress, When the fascia is stressed, fibroblasts produce collagen to create stronger connective tissue. When the continuity of our fascial system breaks down, we suffer injury, pain, and tightness.
Repeated movements, exercises, habits, or lack of movement, all shape our body.
Fascia is the reason we are uniquely human shaped. It is the reason you can have a lot of muscles in the same space, yet the muscles are able to slide past each other and have independent function. As we lose flexibility and the ability of tissue to slide and glide, the viscosity of fascia changes from supple running fluid – to honey – to glue– to dry strands. Therefore, our bodies need the movement to maintain optimal metabolism and circulation to the tissues.
Fascia and Acupuncture Research
Helene Langevin, a professor at Harvard Medical School and the University of Vermont College of Medicine is known as the lead investigators of the NIH-funded studies which explores the role of connective tissue and the mechanisms of manual and movement-based therapies and acupuncture. She states the fascia is “essentially the theater in which all these things are happening; it’s the interface between the musculoskeletal, nervous, and immune system.”
In acupuncture, the connective tissue is the link between the needle and the sensory nerve endings – the signal that gets transmitted to the brain. The needle is a mechanical cue that stimulates a chemical reaction (impacting the musculoskeletal, nervous, and immune system) through the tissue. Cells in the connective tissue, particularly fibroblasts, respond when you manipulate the needle. Research shows that fibroblasts change shape – which is critical for healing.
For more references and resources contact author through email at OrthopedicAlternatives@gmail.com.