How solid is your body?
Fascia forms a continuous web throughout the body, surrounding all muscles, bones, nerves and organs. It is constantly changing its shape, chemical composition and physical properties to adapt to mechanical and other stresses of its environment. It plays a fundamental role in restoring the shape when pressure is removed.
Fascia is a ubiquitous, highly hydrated, richly innervated, vascularized and contractile capacity network - a prodigious complex biological system, which provides mechanoreceptive information to the body, facilitating communication, interaction, adaptation and protection. (Robert Schleip, 2012)
''Today's anatomical mindset is still heavily influenced by the work of Vesalius. This mindset considers the human body to be constructed from distinct parts. However, in my opinion, this concept is in dire need of updating. It is imperative that we adopt a new, more holistic view of the human organism in order to truly and fully understand the anatomy of fascia." - Jaap van der Wal, MD PhD
In recent years, research has revealed that body movement is much more than the action of individual muscles in response to nerve stimulation. Muscles are now understood as part of a system that must be coordinated to function properly. It is the fascia that is responsible for much of the coordination of the motor system. (Carla Stecco, 2015)
The mechanical load encountered in the body is distributed by this continuous network of fascias, ligaments and muscles, which support the entire skeleton, the interaction between these different tissues is also crucial. By "myofascial chains" we mean the muscle chains and fascias that run throughout the body and can transfer tension from one area of the body to other areas, near or far.
What is Tensegrity?
Structures built by tensegrity are not stabilized by the resistance of individual constituents like a column to gravity but by a distribution and balance of mechanical stresses throughout the frame.
Originally introduced into architecture in 1961 by Buckminster Fuller, tensegrity is an architectural principle in which stability is achieved by a balance between opposing tension and compression forces.
Derived from the contraction of the words "tensional integrity", tensegrity is moving away from the traditional concept of compressional continuity. The main aspects of the model are elasticity, deformability, mechanical transmission and restoration of form.
Thanks to their capacity to contract, fascias can spontaneously regulate their stiffness and thus actively participate in the stabilization of joints and dynamic movements. All forces are applied to all structural elements, so that the slightest increase in tension on one element is transmitted to all parts of the system.
Fascias also play an active role in mechanical transfer. Up to half of the force generated by a muscle is transmitted to the surrounding connective tissue. Inter-muscular connections, rather than individual tendon-muscle connections, are responsible for most (90%) of the force transfer between neighboring muscles.
“This tendency exists at all scales of animal or vegetable living matter and seems to be surely through a more important influence of physical forces such as osmotic and electromagnetic, the preferred construction system of nature selected during evolution.'' -Jean Claude Guimberteau
Bio-tensegrity proposes a contemporary vision of the construction of the living model and allows to explain the tissue continuity that exists between all the structures of the body through the fascias. It allows to keep shape, solidity, multidirectional adaptability and independence from the force of gravity.
The fascia is constantly changing its shape, chemical composition and physical properties to adapt to mechanical and other stresses of its environment. It plays a fundamental role in restoring the shape when pressure is removed. This non-linear bio-mechanics allows for shape retention, strength, multi-directional adaptability and a certain independence from gravitational force.
Fascia responds to gravity – the force to which we are all continuously subject. As a ship’s sail needs wind to function, fascia needs gravity. In a sense, gravity is a fixed vector against which fascia organizes bodily structure and function. (Monica Caspari Heidi Massa, 2012).
One of the main roles of the fascia is to modulate the mechanical tensions that are transmitted to the cell.
The concept of mecanotransduction is used to explain how biological structures such as cells, tissues and fascia are constructed, adapt and interact from a biomechanical perspective.
Recent work shows that mechanical distortion of cells and the cytoskeleton through cell surface integrin receptors can profoundly affect cellular behavior.
Evidence is accumulating in support of the thesis that nuclear, cytoskeletal, and extracellular matrices are mechanically, chemically, electro-mechanically, and functionally interconnected throughout the organism. (Oschmann, 1998)
Research tends to show that cellular activity is intimately related to the biomechanical quality of its environment. Hélène Langevin (2010) demonstrated the continuity of mechanical impulses from the skin to the core membrane in mouse fibroblasts.
In conclusion, any action performed locally can potentially involve function throughout the body. The correction of a myofascial dysfunction can take place in a single, or in different, segments of the system.
(Andrzej Pilat, 2011)
Text by: Simon Bélair