WILLETT WORDS OF WISDOM
FASCIA IS A SENSORY AND EMOTIONAL ORGAN
In March of 2018, Dr. Neil Thiese, a pathologist in New York City, gained wide attention when he published an article in Scientific Reports entitled “Structure and Distribution of an Unrecognized Interstitium in Human Tissues.” Media was focusing on the claim that he had “discovered a new organ”. I had the fortune of being on a call with about 100 others listening to him and Dr. Carla Stecco MD of Padua, Italy and author of Functional Atlas of the Human Fascial System. The conversation left me (and others) realizing Thiese had not discovered anything new at all. Simply put, he was seeing something through a different lens, seeing the fluid that runs right there with fascia that he had missed with his typical pathology diagnostics that used histology in a lab as opposed to in vivo (in the body, live). A few months later, I attended the Fascia Research Congress in Berlin and heard Stecco, Guimberteau, Schleip, Lieberman, Szwarc and many others speak on the subject of Fascia and the research and implications. Speaking one on one to Thiese after he finished his keynote, he spoke humbly, saying he knows that we are just on the cutting edge of something that is such an important part of the body. He knows that not all MDs are even aware of it.
Fascia is a relatively new field of knowledge and research that I believe is cutting edge. As we hear more about it, it is also a bit “pop” for some – where someone may claim they have the latest fascia blaster or gimmick to address the subject. Fascia has been around in the manual therapy field a lot longer than in the movement field; so for me personally, I am truly navigating through new exciting territory. The key (for anyone) is to avoid any trendy news on it; and instead, stay abreast of all the current research as well as study with the teachers who have been fully immersed in clinical application and research since the beginning.
Every part of the body is part of the whole– the beautiful intricate complex ecosystem we call the body. And although some parts may be deemed more significant than others, we truly do not know that to be true. Take the brain which gets so much attention. Yet, we now know the digestive track has its own nervous system - the enteric system which oversees functions of the gastrointestinal tract – the gut-brain connection we are hearing so much about. And now we have fascia which has been ignored for so long in the medical field. Yet, it is something that permeates every part of our body and is a body-wide conduit that influences everything from our mental to our physical health. What implications does the health of fascia have for health of mind, body, and spirit?
The more I learn about fascia, the more I want to know. This weekend, I attended a conference in Boston to study again with two leaders in the fascia world - Tom Myers (Anatomy Trains) and Robert Schleip from Germany. The conference focused on how fascia is likely the largest sensory organ in the body and is highly innervated with sensory receptors for:
Nociception – the ability to detect threat from which the body then determines pain or no pain
Proprioception – the sense of knowing where we are relative to body position and movement
Interoception – the internal sense of knowing; e.g., knowing when it’s time to poop, to pee, to eat, to stop eating, or even to leave the room where we may not belong
Lectures and discussion focused on the latest research as well as implications for clinical setting. Problems in proprioception include low back pain, ADHD, scoliosis. Interoception problems may land with irritable bowl syndrome, eating disorders, anxiety and depression, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s not just about the signals we receive though the ones we hear, are able to appraise and respond to. You can look at these dis-eases as disembodiment. We want to be in our skin, to feel connected, and unified with our body self. If fascia plays a key role in the sensory function, then what does that imply for fascial health? How can we heal through manual manipulation? Better yet, how can movement play a role in healing and whole body-spirit alignment? How do our daily patterns of movement and non-movement fit in? These are key questions that continue to be explored and discussed. Fascia is right there dancing with your other systems – lymphatic, nervous, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, endocrine/exocrine… And flowing right there are cells – being born, dying out, existing – as well as the interstitual fluid, one of many flowing moving entities in the body. If fascia also plays a key role in the body’s sensing abilities, then it lays the foundation for looking to the fascia for healing on many levels.
Our current model for “healing” mentally and physically is all about surgeries and prescription pills (which further disrupts the fascia). What if the answer is right there in the fascia? What if fascia holds the “story” and we can heal and move through it in ways we never imagined?
©AnneLloydWillett February 2019