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What it means to have a sensation of stiffness…

When you have a lot to get done, people relying upon you, demanding work, a busy social life, family expectations and the mundane of the everyday tasks that ‘need’ doing one can paraphrase this experience as stressful. Stress as a word has so many meanings it may as well be equivalent to no content. When we are running the health gauntlet of life with so much on, it is easy to forget how to be one’s self, the nervous system up regulates to help meet the psychosocial demands of life. Meeting the demands of life like increasing the heat from a fire by placing paper on it our nervous system turns up the sympathetic drive. Not as in something approaching empathy a part of the nervous system so called because of its anatomical placement adjacent to the spine. How much we are using our sympathetic  nervous system or in other words how stressed or in another way how much we have on in our life can have a bearing on how stiff we notice our body to be. A fascially astute chiropractor can help with this.

Fascial Tension can be regulated by the sympathetic nervous system through the activation of smooth muscles causing a contraction of fascia. Another more confusing scenario is when smooth muscles go into spasm which is a flaccid situation and thus not hold tension in the fascia at a certain place displacing tension to another ‘normal’ area. A note to body workers: do not presume that the pain stiffness or restriction is a primary in need of intervention until you are sure what you have found is not a compensation. Furthermore adrenergic nerve fibres cause a vasoconstriction reducing blood supply to the area facilitating the steady incremental ‘drying up’ and degeneration of fascia.

Bringing to the fore the question; is a virtuous busy life, without chiropractic care, attributing to your stiffness? The likely answer it seems is yes and without a fascially astute chiropractor in your corner you may well be heading toward a stiffer experience of your body.

Tozzi P (2015) Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy 19 310-326.

When deep pain is not deep trouble

Croton Oil an old psychiatric punishment for patients being held at a psychiatric hospital and is these days used for skin exfoliation. When Croton oil is topically applied it can give us an idea of the type of pain that originates at the dermis, the most superficial section of fascia in the human body. Croton Oil brings on a sharp pain experience coupled with a deep pain experience when applied to the skin. This fact enables us to imagine the pain pathways from fascia that relay the sharp and deep pain experiences. Deep pain does not necessarily mean a deep structure is in play or injured. Neither does sharp pain, often called an acute pain, mean that we have active damage and a nerve entrapment. Fascia can give rise to both deep and sharp pain experiences and thus should be a first port of call for people who have these experiences before their logical mind starts to relay to themselves that they have a nerve problem or a deep seated defect within their body.

Keeping on top of your fascial condition can be done with regular variety of movement (Tai Chi, yoga and Pilates) and with regular chiropractic care, in my humble opinion. don’t let it build up keep treatment simple and virtually painless and keep yourself well.

Fascia.. ‘I’m over it’..

Tom Myers is well known to have disseminated knowledge of human anatomy whilst attempting to tie into his Rolfing practice the felt experience of having a human body. Myers has been touted as the Father of Fascia, quoted by a Canadian Masseur come science writer as being ‘over it'(1).

The architecture of the cell is remarkable for many reasons, the one of importance here is that when a cell is under tension from its environment as opposed to tension within its inner environment a change in genetic expression occurs. Yes! The nucleus of a cell alters the expression of its available genes from external tension placed upon the cell. If my body to some degree is a collection of cells that exist within the medium of my connective tissue. Then differences in connective tissue tensions have a genetic difference in how my cells within my body express the 23,000 (ish) genes I possess.

Allowing for markedly different function(s) to occur in adjacent areas of the body. Undoubtedly in my mind having an effect upon the mechanics of the area and the felt sense of the area and of the inner experience of the area; not to mention a different physiology of the area. A different genetic expression may give rise to a strength, or a vulnerability, altering ones health.

Is the falling rate of male fertility in modern society a result of immune system dysfunction? eg leukocytospermia. The dysfunction of white blood cells has been linked to MMP signalling proteins which also interact with c fibres of the nervous system (a route to give a pain signal). To summarise genetic expression, immune function and pain levels are all linked by science to connective tissue tension (aka fascia).

Are the rising levels of immune dysfunction (demonstrated by an over reliance upon antibiotics), the rise in autoimmunity disease rates and the rise in medically unexplained symptoms all a function of a change in the tensions placed upon our body tissues, because we just do not move as much as we did?

Fascia is one view of the body and in itself is not representative of the entire conglomerate of the human body and tells us nothing of the human (interoceptive) experience of having a body. A professional body worker (dancer yogi Qi Gong instructor included) would be well advised to have an adaptable view of the human body and not become any one tissue centric about their approach. After all as a teacher, instructor, therapist, chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist the outcome of a patient is not a function of how right you are!

Keep going science you have a long way from which to ‘catch up’!

(1) Ingraham P Does Fascia Matter? A Science Review of Fascia

Rib Pain…in Pregnancy…

Muscle and joints are a relatively common cause of chest pain¹. Costochondritis a condition that is characterised by point tenderness over the rib and sternum join that reproduces the pain complained of combined with the same side arm movement reproducing that pain too, usually the point is at the 2nd to 5th ribs and sternum join². Not to be confused with Tietzes Syndrome which includes swelling and more likely in older persons and does not get aggravated by same side arm movement. Medical training tells one that costochondritis is a self limiting problem that will go away on its own with advice to take pain killers and do nothing, even if you are pregnant.

The arm movement and a recreation of pain can be indicative of nerve involvement that is unable to slide due to unco-ordination of intercostal musculature. Notably Obliques and Transversus Muscles, but Latissimus and Serratus Anterior can also play a part in faulty rib movement patterns. Yes underlying myofascial imbalance can give rise to costochondritis and can be brought on by the development of the bump in pregnancy. accentuating previously asymptomatic myofascial imbalance.

Treatment of costochondritis has been successful with manual therapy³. The over riding concern of continuing on with muscular imbalance is that our brain will adopt your myofascial imbalance as normal. If you don’t use it you lose it; you lose the body component you do not use from the map of the body in the brain. This map is competitive and neuroplastic meaning it is adaptable and does not have any ideal or starting reference. There is no factory reset or blueprint of ideal / perfect movement of your intercostal, latissimus or serratus muscles. Your normal is what it is.

Having a myofascial imbalance that leads on to chostochondritis during pregnancy can have knock on effects during delivery. Intercostal muscle function has been shown to be predictive of delivery experience and likely complications from the expulsion phase of birth (4).

In my opinion the best interests of any women who is pregnant with costochondritis would be to resolve the issue with manual care as soon as possible. Don’t worry your bump need not get in the way.

References:

  1. Smythe H and Fam. A (1985) Musculoskeletal Chest Wall Pain. Canadian Medical Association Journal 133(5) 379-89
  2. Proulx A and Zyrd T (2009) Costochondritis: Diagnosis and Treatment American Family Physician 80 (6) 617- 620
  3. Rabey I (2008) Costochondritis: Are the Symptoms and Signs Likely Due to Neurogenic inflammation. Two Cases that Respond to Manual Therapy Directed Toward Posterior Spinal Structures. Manual Therapy 13(1) 82
  4. Demaria, F., Porcher, R., Ismael, S. S., Amarenco, G., Fritel, X., Madelenat, P. and Benifla, J.-L. (2004), Using intercostal muscle EMG to quantify maternal expulsive efforts during vaginal delivery: A pilot study. Neurourol. Urodyn., 23: 675–678

Fascia as a sensory organ

The connection between the tissues of the human body bring all body components together on the inside. This connection is known as fascia. Sensory nerves (pain fibres) are densely packed into the superficial fascial layer. This superficial layer lies between the dermis and the deeper fascia. One could paraphrase that the underside of the skin and the top side of the skin are both well innervated by nerves; with the underside being more densely packed with sensory nerves (pain receptors). Whilst the outside of the skin has a greater variety of specialised nerves.

The way the superficial fascia is innervated confirms the idea of Andrew Taylor Still (Father of traditional Osteopathy) that the fascia of the body is a ‘sensory organ’. More recently Helene Langevin wrote about ‘a body wide signalling network’. How information is relayed to the brain, about the body. Udup also showed an interaction between the endocrine system and fascia in his research on hormones and yoga. The human brain, seems to me, to be calculating the movement of your body based upon sensory information from fascial tissue. Thus the condition of the fascia in your body can aid or hinder how you move (proprioception), how you feel and what hormones are being produced.

If you have an inefficient (relative to your most efficient) body you might experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Called ‘muscle soreness’ yet it is accepted that the soreness is in fact from fascial tissue. Soreness from within your fascia can mean abnormal loading and conflicting sensory motor signals are occuring within your nervous system affecting your proprioception. Abnormal loading of fascia can lead to pain of a variety of intensities. Making identifying what you are doing to bring on the DOMS or pain difficult to pin point. Adversely loaded fascial tissue can give rise to what is traditionally thought of as ‘nerve pain’ or nerve root pain. As well as other types of pain.

Next time you are thinking you have a stubborn old injury, nerve issue, strain or sprain, perhaps you need your fascia attended to? This is why with fascia first chiropractic fascia is included along with your other body tissues as a potential source of pain and discomfort.  (Fascia information above was collected from JBMT 2015 No.19). (Picture above from ‘stroll under the skin’ by Guimberteau)

Working through it…

When you are a can do-er working through discomfort can be a part of your life. Pushing the envelope to grow toward your potential is commendable and I thoroughly recommend it. When you do work through a discomfort (or a pain) you can psychologically move to a new normal; no problem. Psychologically we have no boundaries. Physically we do; the most obvious being your skin less obvious being dysafferentation.

Due to the lack of knowledge that humans have about a human body we humans can sometimes create more problems than we solve when we push through it once. When we push through it more than once we can accumulate (learn bad habits) errors. As we move with error we abnormally load our body tissues. Abnormal loading of body tissues leads to degeneration. Normally loaded tissues last a lifetime. If you are broadening your horizons your body might just thank you now for regularly taking it to Fascia First Chiropractic. Your psychology can thank you later as you enjoy your body for years longer. This is of course my opinion but here’s a little of the why:

  • The fascia of the human body talks to the brain telling it where and how your body is.
  • The superficial fascia is densely packed with pain fibres.
  • Fascia is the reason (not muscle tissue) why you get D.O.M.S. (delayed onset muscle soreness) after exercise.
  • Fascia has more free nerve endings in it than your eyes; so the potential for pain is very high.
  • Under abnormal loading fascia can grow in on itself creating an ‘in-growth’ of highly pain sensitive tissue. Perhaps how something seems to ‘go’ without due provocation.
  • The fascia is responsible for housing nerves. The nerve sheath is innervated by the nervi nervorum and could be the cause of ‘nerve’ pain. Fascia can also mimic muscle pain….
  • Increased adrenergic signalling in the fascia leads to a vasoconstriction of blood vessels slowing up nutrient delivery to your fascia. This could worsen an immune condition, a pain syndrome or a symptom that seems to be ‘stress related’.
  • Autonomic tone can change fascial stiffness; When you are stressed your autonomic tone will change as will the stiffness of your fascia (body). This stiffness needs to be balanced not just worked out.
  • The fascia feeds information into your insula nucleus in your limbic brain about the pH, temperature and ion content of your connective tissue. Your limbic system can alter your ability to handle stress, socially interact well, and alter your sensitivity to fear and pain.
  • An immune response can also stiffen your fascia through a marker known as TGF-B1. Think of how you might stiffen up and get achy when you have a bad bout of the flu. Yes it needs balancing out afterward. An autoimmune condition is when you are stuck in a constant immune response and an allergy is an immune response to a given irritant.

Fascia First Chiropractic is more than a quick click. Fascia is behind the rate at which you are currently stiffening (ageing) over time.

Source: Tozzi P. (2015) Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 19 310-326.
Stroll under the Skin  A you tube video where you can see and learn more about fascia.