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Fascia: The thread that binds us all?

A diagrammatic sectional view of the skin (mag...
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Fascia as defined by Wikipedia is a layer of fibrous tissue that permeates the human body.  The word fascia is derived from Latin and means band.  It interpenetrates and surrounds the muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels and other structures.  Fascia is an uninterrupted, three dimensional web of tissue that extends from head to toe, from front to back, from interior to exterior.  There are also three layers of fascia, starting with superficial, then deep and ending with the subserous fascia.  Although the fascia is very thin, like Saran Wrap, it is fibrous and strong.  It performs a number of functions including enveloping and isolating the muscles, providing structural support and protection.

If you’ve ever skinned a chicken before, you have come across the superficial fascia.  This is the whitish sheet of tissue between the skin and muscle of the meat.  This fascia is directly under the skin and provides a strong layer of connective tissue between the skin and the muscle.

The fascia can create tight knots or connective tissue adhesions which may act as trigger points and cause pain following surgery, physical trauma, infection, sedentary lifestyle, pollution, bad diet, poor posture and pregnancy and delivery.  This fascial restriction may cause local pain or may cause restricted movement to an organ that it envelopes.  Organs are designed to move and when restrictions occur and the organ is no longer able to move freely the body is forced to compensate.  Imagine you have on a linen shirt and you walk by a nail that is protruding, if you catch the thin tread of the shirt on the nail head, it may pull all the way across the shirt for the length of the thread.   This is how the fascial restriction affects areas of your body extending from the inside of your knee up to your lungs.  It can affect the muscles or the organs or any structures in its path.

Visceral Manipulation, Myofascial Release and Rolfing are a few modalities that are successfully employed to release the fascia.  These techniques are sometimes gentle or can be quite deep.  I frequently treat patients with chronic low back pain who have fascial restrictions in the pelvic or abdominal cavities that have not been addressed by other practitioners.  Often these are from old surgical scars.  Imagine your back pain, but what is going on in the front?  These old surgical scars are pulling on the back from the inside.  Unless released, the fascia will continue to pull, and the body will continue to compensate.

Mary Boyd, MS, PT is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council and owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy.  She can be reached at 290-5575 or on the web at

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