Archive for September, 2013

What is Fascia?

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

When I was attending massage therapy school in Salt Lake City, Utah, I always heard students and instructors referring to the word, Fascia. I will admit, for a short while, I had no idea what it was. Pronounced “Fash-shuh”, this seemingly mysterious term had me determined to get to the bottom of it. I knew it was a noun and an anatomical term, but not much else.

I wanted to write a blog dedicated to Fascia because it is a complex and fascinating type of tissue that essentially holds our bodies together. Simply defined, Fascia is a layer of fibrous connective tissue. But when I started to really research Fascia, I found that the word is Latin, standing for “band.” And that’s exactly what it is. Pictured below is a view of the muscles and fascia of the back.

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Fascia is a structure of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Each individual muscle is encased in fascia, as is each group of muscles. I understood Fasica more easily when I realized that it essentially acts as a compartmentalizer. It makes sure everything in the body stays in its place and keeps the muscle fibers bound together. Below is a simple illustration of how the fascia wraps around the muscle and the muscle fibers.

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In my anatomy courses, one of my instructors tried to paint a more tangible picture of what Fascia’s texture is like. She told us to picture a piece of raw chicken.  When you separate the skin from the piece of chicken, you will see a sheet-like type of tissue that lies in-between. That is the Fascia.

Now, there are 3 classifications of fascia in the body.  Superficial fascia, Deep (or muscle) fascia, and Visceral fascia. Lets take a closer look at these.

Superficial Fascia

Superficial Fascia is the loose, fatty connective tissue underlying the skin and binding it to the parts beneath. It is also known as Hypodermis.  This layer primarily determines the shape of a body and surrounds organs and glands.  It serves as a storage medium.

Deep Fascia

Deep Fascia is a layer of fibrous connective tissue which surrounds individual muscles and also divides groups of muscles.   This dense fibrous connective tissue surrounds the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body.  The high density of collagen makes this deep fascia very strong. Pictured below are the different layers of the skin and muscle, and you will notice the superficial and deep fascia illustrated here.

imageVisceral Fascia

Visceral fascia suspends the organs within their cavities and wraps them in layers of connective tissue membranes. Each of the organs is covered in a double layer of fascia.  These layers are separated by a thin membrane.  The outermost wall of the organ is known as a parietal layer.  The skin of the organ is known as the visceral layer. Below is a picture of woman being treated with Visceral manipulation. During massage treatments, it is extremely important to affect the fascia. Working with the visceral fascia specifically, can hugely benefit those with recurring musculoskeletal pain and postural distortions.

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In addition to the 3 categories of fascia, there are 7 Fascial bands designed to wrap our bodies in segments. These bands help our bodies stay upright by exerting outward pressure on our tissues. These bands include the Eye Band, Chin Strap, Collar Band, Chest Band, Umbilical Band, Inguinal Band, and the Pubic Band. Fascial bands are structural bridges that mechanically link the skin, subcutaneous layer, and deeper muscle layers.

Much of the bodywork that I perform at my office in Salt Lake City, Utah, has to do with Fascial manipulation.  This type of work is referred to as Myofascial treatment and has proved to be a very effective type of bodywork. It does more than just relax and loosen the muscle tissue, but helps restore muscles to their correct shape. Fascia must be worked on slowly and deeply. It warms the tissue and then can be manipulated accordingly. If you want more information about Fascia or are interested in getting a Myofascial session, please call today at 801-349-3934