Fascia - Fascinating scan showing cross section of the saphenous vein, surrounded by layers of tissue with the strands of fascia standing out, clear as day. ⠀
Amazing to see the process of scanning for vein diameter. Apparently, this vein, though important, is not required for adequate leg vein function, and is the most commonly used for heart bypasses.
What is Fascia?
Fascia is the connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilises, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. It's silvery, and elastic and creates sliding surfaces which allow our muscles and organs to slide around each other. It is fine and delicate in some areas (e.g. eyelids and across the belly of muscles) and thicker and denser when positioned nearer to joints or in areas where it is tensioned over time, such as the iliotibial band, where it helps create stability and support.
It is classified by layer, as superficial, deep, and visceral or parietal fascia, or by its function and anatomical location.
Until relatively recently, the fascia was thought to be unimportant to the functioning and movement of the body. Looking at anatomy books, it's clear that anatomists have traditionally focused almost entirely upon the bones and muscles – the pulleys and levers of the body – rather than the casing of skin and fascia. Indeed, most anatomy books show images in which the fascia and connective tissues have been removed to enable a better view of the muscles.
Function of Fascia
An important function of this tissue is to reduce friction of muscular force. In doing so, it provides a supportive and movable wrapping for nerves and blood vessels as they pass through and between muscles.
Scientists are making significant discoveries about this web of connective tissue and its role in our structure. They now understand that it plays a key role in supporting our bodies – something previously attributed solely to the musculo-skeletal system.
Like ligaments, aponeuroses, and tendons, fascia is made up of fibrous connective tissue containing closely packed bundles of collagen fibres oriented in a wavy pattern parallel to the direction of pull. It is consequently flexible and able to resist great unidirectional tension forces until the wavy pattern of fibres has been straightened out by the pulling force. These collagen fibres are produced by fibroblasts located within the fascial tissue.
Fascia and Movement
Fascial tissues are frequently innervated by sensory nerve endings. These include myelinated as well as unmyelinated nerves. Based on this it's now believed that fascia has a proprioceptive, nociceptive and interoceptive function. We also know that fascial tissues - particularly those with tendinous or aponeurotic properties - are also able to store and release elastic potential energy.
The Future for Fascia
Now that we understand more about the moving body and the part fascia plays, research is expanding. With the advent of ventures such as the Human Fascial Net Plastination Project and the Fascia Research Congress both developed by the Fascia Research Society, new elements are being discovered regularly.
As recently as 2018, the fascia was given official recognition and named as the “interstitium”, although Ida Rolf began working with it and examining its properties at least as early as the 1950s. As we explore more, new discoveries are arriving regularly – it’s an exciting time to be involved in body work and the study of human movement.
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