Anyone who has spent long hours engaged in a heated discussion over Facebook knows the frustration that comes along with it. These discussions have forced me to question many of my long held beliefs about the fascial system and myofascial release. There is evidence that myofascial release is an effective technique for a number of injuries.
However, when it comes to anything fascia related the professional community is divided with fundamentalist views on both sides.
To some myofascial release is a panacea and others regard fascia as ‘dead tissue’ with no clinical significance.
With some of the research and reading I’ve done, I have wanted to dispel myths and simplify research.
Fascial Anatomy For Massage Therapists
If you look at these early illustrations they present the fascia and muscles as one continuous soft tissue structure.
Fast forward to the 20th century (texts we study) most opt to omit fascial structures in order to depict muscles in a cleaner fashion. Recently there has be a resurgence of this ‘forgotten tissue’ and anatomy textbooks have made an effort to include fascial structures in their depictions and descriptions.
An example of this is The Functional Atlas of the Human Fascial System by Carla Stecco, an Orthopedic surgeon and a professor of human anatomy at the University of Padua in Italy, the same University that once employed Andreas Vesalius in the early 1500’s.
Another example is Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers, in this book Myers presents conceptual ‘myofascial meridians’, a recent systematic review confirmed a number of these continuous soft tissue structures.
What is Fascia?
To better understand the possible actions of myofascial release, there is a need to clarify the definition of fascia and how it interacts with various other structures: muscles, nerves, vessels.
Simply speaking all fascial tissue is connective tissue, but all connective tissue is not fascial tissue.
The primary job of connective tissue is to support, connect or separate different types of tissues and organs in the body. For the purpose of brevity, connective tissue proper can be divided into dense connective tissue and loose connective tissue. Simply put fascia is a combination of dense and loose layers of connective tissue. As, for the definition of fascia, there are many different ways that fascia is defined, see What is ‘fascia’ A review of different nomenclatures. In this article the definitions of fascia that I use is “Fascia is fibrous collagenous tissue which are part of a body wide tensional force transmission system”