Is Fascia Weird Or Cool?
Well, most cool things are pretty weird.
Let’s do a quick, I mean really quick, overview of how much fascia is in your body. So first, imagine a person (you, someone else, whatever) lying down. Now, poof! Imagine their skin gone. (Don’t get too caught up in the details here, it’s not that gross.) Now, make the muscles disappear. Then imagine the bones being gone. But you still have a lot of soft tissue, right? Well now, imagine the organs disappearing, then the circulatory system, then the nervous system.
Oh my gosh, what’s left? You would actually still be person-shaped, because of all the fascia (connective tissue) in your body. Wild, right?! Fascia surrounds each muscle fiber; each muscle, every organ, and every nerve and blood vessel. It doesn’t make up much by weight*, but it does an awful lot for you.
*measured to be about 7% in a cadaver. This is interesting to look at in terms of proportions, but less useful when you consider that most of the bulk of fascia is a filmy liquid matrix. That matrix requires a lot of water, which isn’t present in a cadaver.
So what’s weird about fascia?
Pretty much everything about fascia is weird. So, most of what we know about fascia comes from cadaver studies. And that’s not very useful, since dead fascia has very few interesting properties. It’s mostly cleared “out of the way” when a cadaver is studied, actually.
But living fascia is really cool! And now we have the technology to study it! There’s even a group called the Fascia Research Congress (bo-ring! They should find a better name) that produces tons of research. And they find really cool- weird?- stuff.
For example. Did you know? Fascia conducts electricity. For reals! We were all taught in school that the nervous system conducts electricity. But so does fascia! When you have a shooting pain that travels the same path each time- that’s a nerve. Electricity runs through a nerve like a wire, from point A to point B. But when you get a pain that spreads across an area, and might have a slightly different path each time- that’s pain from fascia. Cool huh?
Don’t worry, it’s not just pain; electricity is how your body communicates with itself.
Which explains another bit of recent news: two studies in 2011 both report that acupuncture meridians are overlaid on the body’s fascial system. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? The acupuncturist is putting a metal needle into your body, trying to manipulate the flow of your body’s bioelectromagnetic energy. What better way to do that, than to put the needle into fascia, which will conduct electricity? A much better plan than putting a needle into a nerve- yowch!
Fascia’s Getting Cooler!
A recent study reports that- gasp!- doctors have identified a new organ in the human body.
This new “organ” isn’t a structure, really. It’s the fluid-filled spaces between other connective tissue structures. It’s quite cute, actually. Physical therapists, massage therapists, etc, just yawned and scratched themselves and said, “Yeah, we’ve been working with these structures for decades. You want a cookie now?”
But these doctors are very proud of themselves. Before, when doctors would study this kind of structure, they looked at slides that were typical samples. These scientists hydrated the tissues, and then looked at them. And the tissues looked totally different! So they published a paper, and they’re very proud of themselves. It’s as adorable as this pup right here.
But hey. One of my favorite body structures actually had its five minutes of fame on the news. That’s weird, and it’s more news time than most of us get in our lifetimes. So woot for fascia!