Fascia is the thin cellophane-like membrane that covers and clings to numerous anatomical structures and tissues, including muscles. It acts like an anatomical “girdle” to bind and hold muscles together in a compact manner. It maintains the proper position of the individual muscle fibers, blood vessels, and nerves within the muscles, and prevents them from moving all over the place during movement or muscle contraction. It helps prevent injury by evenly distributing forces and loads for uniform transmission of these forces and loads over the whole muscle. It creates a uniformly smooth / slick surface that essentially lubricates the various tissues that come in contact with each other during movement.
This helps prevent friction injuries and subsequent tissue degeneration and degradation. Not only is fascia the most abundant connective tissue in the body, it is known to be loaded with mechanoreceptors of various sorts. Why is this a big deal? It’s a big deal for a couple of reasons.
When fascia and other connective tissues (Tendons, Ligaments, etc) are injured, traumatically, repetitively, or other, it creates what the medical community calls Fibrosis / Scar Tissue. Adhesed fascia leads to a phenomenon known as Densification. Due to the adhesive nature of this problem, it tends to perpetuate subluxation, or at the very least, an inability to reduce subluxation (Subluxation is defined as a loss of normal alignment or motion of joints — usually vertebrae).
In a 2003 article published in the Annals of Medicine titled Mechanobiology and Diseases of Mechanotransduction, Dr Ingber shed some new light on an old topic — the search for the “Common Cause” of sickness and disease. Although Dr. Ingber himself would never tout his research as a quest to find the elusive “Universal Cause”, he certainly believes that the basis of the largest percentage of today’s diseases is directly related to dysfunctional mechanoreception / proprioception of Connective Tissues.
We already know what Connective Tissues are, but what in the world is proprioception / mechanoreception, and how does it relate to health? The word ‘proprioception’ (aka mechanoreception) comes from two words. First is the Latin word ‘proprius,’ meaning “one’s own“. The second is the word ‘perception’, meaning the process by which one translates sensory input into a coherent and unified picture of one’s environment. When it all works perfectly, it’s literally poetry in motion. However, when this system begins to break down, all sorts of problems can arise — many of them ugly, severe, and as you’ll soon see; not well understood by the average doctor.
What are the most common ways that this system goes haywire?
• Abnormal Biomechanics ultimately leads to both Inflammation and fouled up mechanoreception, which both cause degeneration of the affected joint. This is a well known fact that can be found in any pathology textbook or from any doctor you care to talk to. Everyone has heard the old adage ‘use it or lose it’. Although it is an oversimplified cliché, there is a tremendous amount of truth in these five words.
A quick review of the scientific literature on the subject tells us that loss of normal joint motion creates a loss of proprioception that subsequently causes degeneration of the affected joint.
• Loss of joint motion and the subsequent loss of proprioceptive input could theoretically do to the various organs and organ systems in the body. Because the brain ultimately controls every function of the body via the spinal cord and nerve system, a loss of range of motion and proprioception has actually been shown to diminish organic (organ) function. Sounds crazy? Not to B.J. Palmer. Not to A.T. Still. And certainly not to Doctor Ingber.
It is a simple physiological fact that loss of spinal range of motion due either to Vertebral Subluxation and / or Fascial Adhesion, causes diminished nerve system (proprioceptive) function. It is the body’s motor impulses that tell it what to do and how to function. It is motor function of the nerve system that not only tells my fingers how to type, but also tells my heart to beat, my intestines to work, my body temp to stay at 98.6, and my immune system to attack or not to attack, depending on the threat. Let’s remember that fascia is the single biggest proprioceptive organ in your body.
Dr. Ingber believes that modern medicine is far too wrapped up in trying to pin all our health problems on genetics, while mostly ignoring what he believes to be the greatest underlying causes of disease. What are these underlying causes of disease he speaks of? His research in biophysics and pathology have led him to the conclusion that many, if not most of the problems people seek medical care for, are the result of abnormal structure and function of the body’s Connective Tissues (bones, ligaments, tendons, fascia, etc). Furthermore, he believes that you cannot truly understand any disease process without first understanding biomechanics and CELL BIOLOGY —- the relationship between the way the body functions mechanically, and cellular function.
Critical function of healthy fascia
• It acts like an anatomical “girdle” to bind and hold muscles together in a compact manner.
• It maintains the proper position of the individual muscle fibers, blood vessels, and nerves within the muscles, and prevents them from moving all over the place during movement or muscle contraction.
• It helps prevent injury by evenly distributing forces and loads for uniform transmission of these forces and loads over the whole muscle.
• It creates a uniformly smooth / slick surface that essentially lubricates the various tissues that come in contact with each other during movement. This is helps prevent friction injuries and subsequent tissue degeneration and degradation.
• It allows muscles to change shape as they are both stretched and shortened.
Sources Dr. Schierling attended Kansas State University in the mid 80’s; his chosen area of study being Nutrition & Exercise Physiology. Not knowing anything about the chiropractic profession, a powerlifting injury led him to seek care after standard forms of medical treatment had failed. After deciding on a career in chiropractic, Dr. Schierling attended Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis, graduating in 1991. www.drschierling.com Dr.Ingber is a cell biologist. He also happens to be a medical doctor with advanced degrees in molecular biophysics and cellular biochemistry (all from Yale). He was part of the Vascular Biology Program in the Department of Surgery and Pathology, at Children’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School, where he was a researcher and pathologist, until 2008, when he was named a professor of bio-engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.