The Fascial Network And Its Role In Chronic Pain

The Fascial Network

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The fascial network is a thin, yet very strong, white net of connective tissue that envelopes your entire body just beneath your skin.

Anatomy text books usually remove most of the fascia so that the muscles can be seen (as they did in this drawing to the right).  In reality, the fascial tissue continues to surround the entire musculoskeletal system.

This tissue, as one continuous structure, then travels deeper into the body, wrapping around groups of muscles, individual muscles and even individual muscle fibers.

Epimysium, perimysium, and endomysium noted on this drawing below, are names given to different layers of fascia.  At joints in the body, where muscle tissue ends, these layers of fascia extend beyond the muscle tissue and gather together to form tendons. Tendons are thick cords of fascia that attach muscles to bones.

The Fascial Network

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The fascial layers that wrap around the brain and spinal cord are referred to as dura. Dural folds separate different sections of the brain. Thinner layers of fascia branch out from these dural folds to surround and connect all brain cells.

Fascia in the torso travels deeper in and surrounds each of the organs, then permeates all of these tissues as it travels even deeper, encasing every individual cell in the body.

The fascial network forms a three-dimensional matrix of structural support within the body. It contains and shapes the body, holding the organs in place and aligning the spine and the joints, while allowing mobility. The fascia provides pathways for blood vessels, nerves and acupuncture meridians to travel through, so that nutrients, hormones, and energy can be delivered to each cell in the body. It also provides a pathway for lymph vessels to travel through. So that toxins can be carried out of the cells and away to be eliminated.

When you experience trauma, for example an injury, surgery, inflammation or repetitive strain, adhesions can form within the fascial network. An adhesion is scar tissue that forms between two surfaces, causing the tissues to stick together. They can form between different layers of fascia, between the fascia and the muscles, the fascia and the nerves, and even between the fascia and the organs.

The Fascial Network

© 2007 Cedron Mark Sterling LMP.

Scar tissue causes the fascia to shorten and tighten in some areas while becoming weak and flaccid in others.  This can pull the spine and joints out of alignment or allow them to fall out of alignment.  If scar tissue forms in multiple locations, this further complicates the dysfunction in the fascial network.  Scar tissue can become larger and tighter over time resulting in worsening symptoms.

Because the fascia is one continuous net of tissue, pain and dysfunction can spread throughout the body or occur in distant locations to the original injury. Scar tissue impinges nerves, causing them to misfire. It disrupts the smooth flow of blood, lymph, and qi throughout your body resulting in not only chronic pain, but also many other health conditions. Much of the time, this scar tissue cannot be seen using x-rays or imaging tests.

The Fascial Network

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It is well known that meditation and hypnosis train the brain to enter deep alpha and theta brain wave states, and that in these states the conscious mind can communicate with the autonomic or involuntary nervous system. The involuntary nervous system controls both cardiac muscle cells (which regulate the heartbeat) and smooth muscle cells (which regulate the fascia), whereas skeletal muscle cells are controlled by the voluntary nervous system. Buddhist monks are known to be able to control their heart rate while in a meditative state. Just as they are able to communicate with the cardiac muscle cells in their heart, it is my experience that one can communicate with the smooth muscle cells in the fascia. These cells respond by stretching or releasing scar tissue in the fascia, or by shortening and strengthening the fascial tone where needed. Obvious physical sensations and movement of the fascial tissue can be felt during this process.

The significant discovery of both smooth muscle cells and autonomic nerves in fascial tissue was made by German scientist J. Staubesand. This resulted in “a new picture of fascia as an actively adapting organ” thoroughly interconnected with the involuntary nervous system, with “a much higher functional importance.” Click here to read an interview with Prof. Staubesand.

As scar tissue is loosened, nerves are freed from impingement and qi begins to flow freely through the acupuncture meridians, relieving pain and improving nerve function. As the fascial network regains its balanced tone, the spine and joints within the body are brought back into healthy alignment. Because nutrients, hormones, lymphatic fluid and energy are flowing through the fascia to every cell in the body, many health conditions can benefit from restoring balance and healthy function to the fascial network.

Before discovering this method, I tried several modalities that are known to treat the fascial network including rolfing, myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, and acupuncture.  These therapies work very well for many people, however they did not benefit my condition, possibly because I had very thick scar tissue in multiple areas.  When scar tissue is very dense, acupuncture needles only draw more qi to a completely blocked area, which can result in worsening symptoms.  (If the scar tissue is less dense, then the needles cause qi to trickle through the area and help the scar tissue to break down.)  Also with many of these other modalities, the client is seen once or twice per week for a one hour session, but with complicated scar tissue conditions, this is not frequent enough to be effective.

The Fascial Network

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Antara is a self-healing technique. Once you learn this technique you can practice at home as often as needed. With this method, your body is helping to guide the process. Your body understands itself and how to heal, but sometimes requires attunement with natural universal energies as well as our focus and attention to remind it to find balance again. The ability to consciously communicate with your autonomic nervous system holds vast potential for promoting health and wellness. Antara is a surprisingly effective method for releasing and mobilizing scar tissue in the body, and is a new emerging modality for the treatment of chronic pain.

For more information about the exciting field of fascia research, visit the Fascia Research Group.