WHAT "THICKENED" FASCIA REALLY TELLS YOU
"In some places the fascia is thinner than nylon pantyhose, but in other places, such as the Iliotibial band on the outside of the leg, it can be much thicker. All the nerves and blood vessels run through the fascia. Therefore, if the connective tissue is tight, the associated tissues will have poor nutrient exchange. This exacerbates any painful situation because toxic metabolic waste products build up which will further aggravate pain receptors. This creates a vicious cycle by creating more muscle tension, leading to further thickening and hardening of the fascia, which will further limit mobility." Holistic Physical Therapist Russell Ditchfield (he does TOM MEYERS work) from an article on his site called What is Fascia?
"Because of injury, illness, stress, aging and repetitive use, this tissue will shorten, thicken become more unyielding and twist according to the pattern of strain to which the body is subjected. As the fascia thickens and hardens where chronic tension is present, the fibers begin to solidify creating structure that no longer feel like soft tissue but rather tendons or ligaments. In addition to hardening tissues, severe pain begins to arise and blood and lymph now fight to get through to the blocked area causing poor circulation and nutrition. In situations such as these, exercise can exacerbate the areas due to blood and lymph being unable to circulate and flush out old fluids." From Ron Thompson's article, More About Fascia. Thompson, of the Tampa area, trained with Ida Rolf and has been treating patients for half a century.
"And your wise men don't know how it feels... To be thick... As a brick." Jethro Tull from 1972's Thick as a Brick
Many people come to my clinic, get treated, GET GREAT RESULTS, and never take things to the next level. In other words, most never modify their inflammation levels by changing their lifestyles or diets. This is unfortunate because at least briefly, I mention the importance of this to everyone I that I treat with Tissue Remodeling, as well as giving them THIS HANDOUT with THIS ARTICLE circled (THIS ONE also) for them to read. I also frequently mention doing an ELIMINATION DIET in order to empower people to start addressing any diet-based inflammation that may be present. Why is addressing inflammation such a big deal? Because the end result of inflammation is always the same thing --- fibrosis (HERE) --- America's leading cause of death (HERE).
Please remember that even though you frequently see them together, used in the same sentence, swelling and inflammation are not synonymous terms. INFLAMMATION is the collective name given to a large group of the body's chemical messengers; messengers that sometimes attract swelling to them. What's important to grasp here is that not only is inflammation a normal part of your immune system response, without it your body cannot heal damaged cells or tissues. However....
When there is too much inflammation present, not just locally but even more critically, SYSTEMICALLY, the healing process will be hindered. Significantly hindered. Many people are aware that "itis" is the medical term for inflammation, but I'm not sure that they realize that the biggest portion of sickness and disease (according to current research about 85-90%) is not, as you have been led to believe, due to your particular genetic makeup (genetics), but is instead predicated on whether or not you are triggering these so-called "bad" genes to do "bad" things by living a "bad" lifestyle and eating "bad" foods (EPIGENETICS).
One of the problems with fibrosis is that it is thicker than normal tissue --- in most cases much thicker --- a fact I have shown you previously (HERE). The problem with abnormal or pathological thickened connective tissues is that they hinder function. A simple way to think about it is that as long as everything else is equal, a thin piece of elastic is going to be stretchier than a thick piece. The key is to have enough thickness so that the tissue is strong enough to resist being pulled apart, but not so much thickness that it looses elasticity. Because FASCIA is so naturally thin anyway, the differences between thick and thin, as you'll soon see, are often subtle.
Historically, these differences in normal fascia and fibrotic fascia could not be measured because MRI, contrary to what millions of people have been led to believe, does a poor job of imaging fascia, particularly at the microscopic levels needed to show the "adhesions" responsible for TETHERED RANGES OF MOTION. What is being used to visualize some of these restrictions besides Tissue Remodeling? Although ultrasound technology is still not to the point where it is going to show everything that desperate and hurting people hope it will, it has improved dramatically, to the point where FASCIAL ADHESIONS of heavy fascia (such as that of the Thoracolumbar Fascia) and TRIGGER POINTS can be imaged (HERE).
And while the newest of this newer technology (sonoelastography) was verified just a couple of weeks ago in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine (Reliability of the Upper Trapezius Muscle and Fascia Thickness and Strain Ratio Measures by Ultrasonography and Sonoelastography in Participants With Myofascial Pain Syndrome), a good overview of the technique can be found in the abstract of a 2012 issue of the Journal of Medical Ultrasound (Musculoskeletal Sonoelastography: A Focused Review of its Diagnostic Applications for Evaluating Tendons and Fascia).
"Sonoelastography is a diagnostic ultrasound technique that provides a noninvasive means of estimating soft tissue elasticity and stiffness. It is based on the principle that the compression of soft tissue produces strain that is greater in tissues that are softer and more elastic than in harder, more rigid tissues. Pathological and healthy tissues can present with similar echogenicity and morphology on conventional ultrasound. However, alterations in tissue elasticity often occur with degeneration or other pathological changes that involve the soft tissues."
If you have ever BUTCHERED ANYTHING, you've seen fascia. It's the super tough cellophane-like membrane that covers virtually all the tissues in your body (it has different names according to which specific tissue), but is most commonly associated with being the covering of MUSCLES. When this tissue is injured, it thickens, hindering it's ability to slide and glide on whatever tissue, nerve, blood vessel, or muscle it covers. The end result is not only pain and restricted motion, but the LOSS OF PROPRIOCEPTION that an increasing number of elite researchers believe could be the cause of all sickness and disease (see link).
AREAS, DISEASES, AND COMMON HEALTH ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH PAIN RELATED TO THICKENED FASCIA
Although thickened fascia in the form of Fascial Adhesions can occur virtually anywhere (when I say anywhere, I literally mean anywhere), there are certain places where it is more common than others.
HOW TO EFFECTIVELY DEAL WITH YOUR THICKENED FASCIA
Remember the study that Chaitow mentioned earlier? He showed that according to ultrasound measurements of fascial thickness, various forms of fascial manipulation and bodywork were being objectively proven effective at decreasing the thickness of densified fascia. Just understand that "bodywork" encompasses a lot of ground, as there are literally hundreds of different techniques (he was specifically talking about the Steccos' "Fascial Manipulation". While I certainly believe that underlying mechanical issues must be addressed using things like TISSUE REMODELING, WBV, STRETCHING, YOGA, GROUNDING, TRACTION (or HERE), ACUPUNCTURE, CHIROPRACTIC, etc, etc, etc, I also feel that in many cases, this approach is missing the boat -- or at the very least, missing a huge part of the boat; especially concerning chronic, long-term problems. What do I mean?
Firstly, because 99% of the problems we discussed today share a common denominator (INFLAMMATION), you have no choice but to address it if you truly want to get better. While changing your diet is the lowest of the low-hanging reparative fruit, there are numerous underlying problems that can potentially drive inflammation (HERE; important since most disease processes share several universal characteristics). Secondly, for many of you, BRAIN FUNCTION will need to be addressed as well. This is because a significant amount of CHRONIC PAIN (TYPE III PAIN) is not caused by tissue damage, but instead by ABNORMAL BRAIN LOOPS that have been "learned" by repetition. In similar fashion to the way you learn to do anything, do it enough and you tend to get good at it. Unfortunately, pain can work the same way.
So, although there is no way that every person will be able to solve every health issue they struggle with on their own, the cool thing is that they can improve most of them. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and suggest that when it comes to CHRONIC DEGENERATIVE INFLAMMATORY DISEASES (including AUTOIMMUNITY), not only can people usually do better on their own than they could using standard medical fare (i.e. PRESCRIPTION), getting out of the box and attacking your problem yourself is the only way that most of you will have a prayer at solving, not just 'improving' your problem (the topic of an upcoming post --- on FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE). If you want to see a "Big Picture" approach to improving / solving your health problems, HERE IS ONE that has the potential to help the majority of you pull yourselves out of the pit that is your health.
Dr. Schierling completed four years of Kansas State University's five-year Nutrition / Exercise Physiology Program before deciding on a career in Chiropractic. He graduated from Logan Chiropractic College in 1991, and has run a busy clinic in Mountain View, Missouri ever since. He and his wife Amy have four children (three daughters and a son).