Fasciae and basic system
Fasciae‘ are the place to look for disease, but they are also the place where healing begins,“ said Andrew T. Still, the founder of osteopathy.
Fasciae connect, as the German term connective tissue makes clear. They are a partly wafer-thin, fibrous network that covers not only all muscles and organs, but also the brain and spinal cord, as well as the nerve cords that move from there into the body, and as subcutaneous connective tissue they connect the skin with the body.
Fasciae also hold and shape the body. As wafer-thin to millimetre-thick fibreboards, they stabilise the locomotor system. Without the fascial sheath, muscles would flow apart like syrup and would never be able to maintain the attractive shape, elasticity and dynamics that we would like to train you.
And fasciae carry and control us. As a multi-branched, continuous network of tension connections, they form a three-dimensional, highly sensitive system that possibly influences the shape and load behaviour of the body more than the muscular and skeletal system (Myers/Schleip). In other words, we are supported by the network of fasciae and muscles, while bones play a more important role as bracing and tension holders as the „tensegrity“ hypothesis suggests.
Fasciae move and strengthen us and can also store energy. We are not only connected, held, supported and controlled by the fasciae, but also moved by their inherent elasticity and resilience. As the examination of the tendons of animals that jump or run extremely far and long distances without fatigue has shown, the fasciae of the arch of the foot and the lower legs store energy generated by stretching and then release this energy to the muscles when they jump off. We therefore run less through muscle power than through the elasticity of our fasciae. But the elasticity of the fascia also keeps our muscles and especially the back upright (Gracovetsky).
Fasciae are structured. You can think of the fascial or connective tissue network of the body as a spider’s web in which the movement or movement blockage of each fibre influences all the others. Normally, the fascial network is built up in a scissor grid structure with an angle of fifty-five degrees, like a pair of tights. Although the individual fascia fibre is hardly stretchable, this allows the fibre net to stretch strongly horizontally. Stress and lack of exercise lead to a „dry matting“ of the fascia. The net loses its alignment and thus its stretchability. Overstress, on the other hand, tends to cause inflammatory, „damp“ felting and thus also sticking and disturbing the alignment of the net. The American anatomist Myers describes a structuring of this net in the form of longitudinal lines, the myofascial channels, which also show a correspondence to the acupuncture meridians of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). For example, a tense shoulder or an irritation in an SIJ can be relieved while sitting, when a fascial irritation in an ankle or leg joint no longer puts a strain on the system.
Fasciae can be painful. Fasciae have a high density of pain receptors (Heine, Langevin), especially on the back, at the transition to bones and joints. Unilateral or excessive strain, lack of exercise and stress reduce the pain threshold in these pain receptors by slagging of the metabolism in the basic substance as well as matting of the fascial cell structures and increase the risk of additional „dislocations“ or other smaller or larger injuries by a decrease in elastic mobility. Some injuries can also cause pain and disturbances in completely different parts of the body via the fascial network as focal points of interference.
But fasciae are even more mysterious.
Fasciae guide. Fasciae contain numerous transport pathways which, as a basic system, matrix or intercellular substance, play a fundamental role in metabolic and immune regulation and information conduction in the body. This basic lymphatic system, which is surrounded by fascia and connects the entire body, is where the branches of the blood, lymphatic and nervous systems meet. With its molecular, cellular, hormonal, piezoelectromagnetic, neurological, fluid and energetic interactions, the fascial system seems to be the largest transmission medium of the body (Beuckels).
Fasciae sense and inform. The enormous number of free nerve endings and stretch receptors makes the connective tissue our most sensitive organ of perception, especially for body perception. But not only information about movement, position, tension, pressure, temperature and pain is passed on to the autonomic nervous system and the brain. In terms of molecular structures, the fascial system has the crystalline properties of a large liquid crystal, which constantly changes its structure and, like a transmitter and receiver, generates and reacts to electromagnetic waves (Schlage, Xander). Due to the numerous, mainly sympathetic nerve fibres, there is also a reciprocal relationship between the fascial system and the autonomic nervous system and thus also to our feelings and the feelings of people and animals in our environment.
Fascia react to stress with a pelvic twisting. The gradual relief of active trouble spots or other causally involved irritations in or outside the body always leads directly to a temporary resolution of the pelvic writhing. The relaxation remains when all stressors are relieved. This can be seen a sign of the free regulatory capacity of the autonomous nerve system. The basic relaxation must be repeated regularly specially in times of stress or illness.
Fascia resonate. In a healthy body, all cells resonate. Unharmonious vibrations in and outside the body, such as scars or firmly held, unprocessed emotions burden the fascial system and, via the autonomic nervous system, the unconscious body processes as well as our consciousness. According to researches of the indian scientist Dr. Mukunda, the navel as the suspension point of the fascial system indicates the individual basic tone of the body. Illness arises as a result of an imbalance of this basic tone and thus the whole body.
The effect of navel integration could be explained accordingly by relaxation and harmonization of the navel and transmission of its vibration to other zones with disturbed vibration pattern.
Fasciae have a memory. Fasciae not only react to emotions, they can also store them (Minasny). Thus, both therapist and patient regularly experience the release of emotions repressed at the time of trauma when treating traumatically stressed fasciae, especially scar tissue.
Fasciae stick together under stress. With regard to persistent stress, recent research shows that stress can lead to an activation of connective tissue stabilizers, the „myofibroblasts“, via a release of the messenger substance TGFB. Within a few hours, these can cause a stiffening of the fascia by the formation of delicate adhesive-like compounds if there is a simultaneous lack of exercise. Chronic back pain patients not only show an increased density of these muscle fibre-forming cells (myofibroblasts) (Schleip), but as a consequence also a thickening and disturbed gliding ability of the large back fascia (Langevin) with its three superimposed layers.
Fasciae need movement. When there is a lack of movement, so-called „cross links“ form between antagonistically acting muscles and cause increasing stiffening and matting, which can also exert painful pressure on nerve fibres. Regular movement, especially stretching, if possible in all directions, as in yoga, can dissolve these new adhesions. Changing pressure due to muscle work can press the fluid together with the metabolic waste products from the fascial base substance and make room for fresh new fluid and energy. Persistent muscle tension, on the other hand, can lead to lymph congestion in the basic substance. Substances such as adenosine triphosphate can then lead to a conversion of the coagulation factor dissolved in the lymph, fibrinogen to the insoluble fibrin and cause fascia to stick together (studies by Prof. Dr. Paulini in Mainz and Ulm).
Fascia react to treatments and to relaxation. In classical connective tissue massage as well as in Rolfing, fasciae are flattened and thus also emptied and detoxified by slow, firm pressure. But gentle techniques can also have a powerful effect on the fascial system. Gentle touch, as in Ortho-Bionomy or Ayurvedic massage, for example, can dissolve excess collagen, the firm fibers of connective tissue, via the release of a specific messenger substance (matrix metalloproteinase-1) (Zheng et.al, cited in Xander).
Sustained, gentle tangential loading has been shown to lower sympathetic activity via certain fascial sensory cells, the „Ruffini“ receptors, as well as the free nerve endings (Schleip). The Ruffini corpuscle is shaped like a cylinder. Collagenous fiber bundles pass through the openings. Anchored between them are the ends of nerve fibers.
Pacini corpuscles are more responsive to pressure changes, such as rocking massage.
As an indication of interconnectedness of connective tissue with consciousness, it has been found that meditation, conscious breathing, and other mindfulness-enhancing actions can lead to increased release of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide (NO).
This induces the self-dissolution of overactive fiber-forming cells (myo-fibroblasts).
Thus, conscious stretching movement, coordinated with breathing if necessary, has a multiple positive influence on an elastic and well-conducting fascial system.
The combination of slow and fast, firm and gentle pressure as well as stroking and pushing movements, gentle and firm stretching, rocking, shaking, tapping and holding together with a simultaneous relaxation, mindfulness and unintentionality of the therapist accordingly explain the very deep regeneration through Breema, a form of therapy from my home country, Iran, which became known and systematized in America since two decades.
In the meantime Breema has become an integral part of the treatments in our practice as well to my Integral orthopedics and Ortho-Bionomy as in form of self-breema to the Psycho- and Traumatherapy of my wife.
But also every load within the individual limits of the load capacity trains not only the muscles but also the fascia tissue. The best stimulus for training the fascia is the ever-changing load in different positions with stretches built in between.
Fasciae meet in the navel. The navel is the most important suspension and connection point of the fascial network because of its interweaving with most of the fascial features. In addition to the direct connections to the peritoneum and thus to the intestine, as well as to the liver, the diaphragm and above it to the pericardium and down to the urogenital tract, there are indirect, therapeutically relevant connections via the myofascial pathways up to the skull, down to the arch of the foot and back to the spinal column. In particular, there is a close connection to the dorsolumbar transition, which in turn is decisive for irritations of the SIJ and pelvic-hip region. The linea alba and the rectus abdominis, which run vertically above the navel, run functionally via the pubic bone, pelvic floor, ventral sacral fascia and anterior longitudinal ligament of the spinal column back up to the dorsolumbar transition and further to the skull. Via the transversal fascia and the peritoneal connections to the diaphragm, there is a further connection of navel, upper abdomen with adrenal gland and solar plexus and the one to the origin of hip flexors and back extensors. Besides the navel, there are also therapeutically useful reflex zones for the back extensor and the kidney region. In TCM, the navel region is considered the most important energy reservoir from which the whole body is fed. The sensitive therapist or patient can feel the increase or decrease in tension of a reference point anywhere in the body by moving the navel. In principle, this is possible with numerous reference systems within the framework of osteopathy, acupuncture or kinesiology. Particularly relevant for Integral Orthopedics however, is the fascial connection of navel, adrenal glands, the vegetative nerve plexuses in the upper abdomen, the sympathetic solar plexus and the vagus plexus at the transverse colon and, via the large abdominal and dorsal fascia, the functionally important transition from the thoracic to the lumbar spine.
Fasciae react to integration techniques. The dens connection of sympathetic nerves with the fascial system enables a deep relaxation of the sympathetic system by relaxing the fascial system by its connection point the navel. I assume that this leads to a big amount of energy set free in the belly as with the integral techniques you can tranfer healing energy in order to release pain or integrate sources of disorder, like scars. This results in the possibility of influencing the causes of stress or pain in the whole body, specially the causes of chronic low back pain.
The additional gentle treatment of „dislocations“ or trouble spots in the body by the integration techniques not only supports a local relief of the fascial system, but always a general relief as well. According to Klaus Weber and Michaela Wiese, the directors of the German Institute for Ortho-Bionomy, the techniques of umbilical and scar integration can be understood in this context as „fascial reaction transfer with relief of key positions in information transfer in the connective tissue interstitial substance“. In their book, „Understanding, Treating and Preventing Back Pain“, they wrote about navel integration according to Kermani, which was then still called navel synchronisation: „Myofascial, dorsal tension can be positively influenced via the navel as a ventral, fascial anchor point of the trunk wall“. And „at the navel, pre- and postnatal experiences meet with the structure and function of a central switching point of the ventral myofascial chain“. The American anatomist Myers also describes the navel in his book on the myofascial pathways as „the source of nourishment in the first nine months“, as well as „a rich source of emotional and fascial connections“.
Fascia proove the existance and significance of our aura. The direct resolution of a pelvic torsion by relieving a stressed zone in the body’s energy field proves a functionally relevant connection of our aura with our body.
Fascias still hold many secrets. Both the clinically proven effect of navel and scar integration on the autonomic nervous system and the proven fascial and muscle relaxation under the second hand are not yet sufficiently explained. In navel integration, the rapid relaxation of the autonomic nervous system is achieved merely by the gentle displacement of the navel and is independent of any displacement of the abdominal fascia. The latter causes a local fascial relief but no noticeable energy flow, no vegetative switching and no whole body relaxation. It is possible that a re-polarisation of atoms and molecules occurs during navel and scar integration by inhibiting sympathetic receptors in the connective tissue. Previously positively charged particles, i.e. free radicals, could be neutralised and a current of released electrons, i.e. negatively charged energy particles or constructive waves, could be passed through the basic fascial system of one’s own body or that of a second person as if through a power cable.
Fasciae spur research. Modern fascia research offers a decisive clue to understanding the effect of integration techniques: „Fasciae seem to be not only a mirror of the autonomous nerve system, but also an important gateway for manual therapy to have an effect on the entire autonomous system“ (Schleip). The sustained gentle tangential load during navel and scar integration has been shown to reduce sympathetic nervous system activity via certain fascial perception cells, the „Ruffini“ receptors and the free nerve endings (Schleip). The Ruffini corpuscle has the shape of a cylinder. Collagenous fibre bundles pass through the openings. The ends of nerve fibres are anchored in between. Pacini corpuscles react more to pressure changes, such as rocking massaging. The overriding relaxation effect of navel integration is explained by the switch of the autonomous nerve system and entire fascial system from a state of stress to a state of relaxation. The release of therapeutically usable energy that can be felt as heat, both behind the navel in the abdomen, as well as under a treated scar or in the meridian or fascia, can possibly also be explained by the changed fascial tension. Fascia molecules have a crystalline structure (beating) and crystals release energy under pressure (piezoelectric effect). Gentle manual treatment and a generalised change in fascial tone could release electrons which cause a re-polarisation of positively charged electrons and thus energy-consuming free radicals into neutrally or negatively charged particles in the basic substance of the fascial system. A further effect of navel and scar integration would then be the change of a stress-induced acidic basic system environment with many positively charged particles or free radicals into a neutral or slightly alkaline environment that is more digestible for the body. As a medium- and long-term effect, an extremely gentle shifting of scar and navel integration via a release of the messenger substance MMP-1 may also cause the dissolution of excess collagen. (Zheng et al, J Biomech 45 cited by Patrick Pfeiffer*). A therapeutic increase of the pain threshold and thus influencing the connective tissue part of the pain memory could also be achieved by converting pain-conducting receptors into pressure and movement-conducting receptors (Stefan Albrecht).
Integral orthopaedics offers here partly only theoretical models of a possible mode of action of the integration techniques, but I am interested in further researching their mode of action, their synergistic effect with other gentle manual techniques, like Breema, as well as acupuncture and especially also connections between purely energetic techniques and the fascial system in cooperation with other colleagues.