Things in Erin’s Brain
It’s all connected.
I prance around saying it all the time.
People have said to me, “You’re a Jack of all trades…” but I don’t feel that way. I just do me. I do the things I love. I love to write. I love my massage work. I love butterfly ranching. I love my work supporting Caregivers, creating tools, and using my voice to talk about all the things Caregivers never talk about. Things PEOPLE never talk about. Those things are all connected because they come from my heart. They are all extensions of me.
Which is why it’s fun for me to be able to write a newsletter like this one. It bridges the things I love in a unique way. This week’s newsletter is being highlighted by Simply Massage’s Massage Minute and we’re talking about fascia. Yes, it’s interesting to me as a person who has manipulated soft tissue for a decade, but the two articles I’m summarizing demonstrate how our bodies are physically connected AND the mind body connection.
How does this relate to caregiving? You’re about to find out.
Because it’s all about love…
Massage Minute brought to you by
Fascinating fascia. Myofascial release is one of my favorite techniques to perform. It doesn’t require painful pressure and offers excellent results. It’s one of the reasons people leave my studio amazed that I can offer the relief I do without beating them up.
But what is fascia?
As defined in the article “Muscle Pain: It May Actually Be Your Fascia” by Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place. The tissue does more than provide internal structure; fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin. When stressed, it tightens up.”
The Johns Hopkins article continues, “Although fascia looks like one sheet of tissue, it’s actually made up of multiple layers with liquid in between called hyaluronan. It’s designed to stretch as you move. But there are certain things that cause fascia to thicken and become sticky. When it dries up and tightens around muscles, it can limit mobility and cause painful knots to develop.”
FUN FACT #1: This is one of the two reasons I will ever ask you to drink water. To keep your fascia hydrated after we’ve loosened it up. The second reason? Pretty much all of us need to drink more water. (Note I did not mention the word “toxins”).
What’s particularly fascinating for many massage therapists is that we have basically never SEEN fascia. It tends to be cut away from cadavers, and it’s not included in our textbook images of muscles which really show only muscles with their origins and insertion points, bones, tendons and ligaments. End story.
This month I got really jazzed about an article in Massage and Bodywork Magazine, “Meet FR:EIA: The World’s First Whole-Body, Fascial-Focused Plastinate,” by Rachelle Clauson, Gary Carter, and Fauna Moore.
FR:EIA is an acronym for Fascia Revealed: Educating Interconnected Anatomy” and was derived from the name Freya, the original name of the plastinate model named after the Norse goddess of love. The three year project involved preserving the cadaver’s tissue via plastination which removed water from the tissues and replaced it with plastic polymer.
What’s off-the-charts-exciting about it? We can actually see…
IT’S ALL CONNECTED
Beautiful images were taken by BODYWORLDS.COM/FR:EIA and if I am granted permission, I will republish them here for your viewing. The BODYWORLDS website also has a YouTube video of the FR:EIA unveiling which is even cooler than the article and the images because… it’s a VIDEO of the tissue (WARNING – I find it cool – but you may find it gross – there’s no blood, but there is tissue and it is a cadaver).
The article itself is pretty technical and scientific, which makes it challenging for me to summarize without simply retyping the article (I like to be really accurate when I’m talking science – for my book I had all the sciency-bits reviewed by a transplant nurse practitioner to make sure it was all correct).
So instead I’m going to highlight the bits I found to be the coolest. If you’d like to check out the full article you can find it HERE.
- It all starts with the skin. While the epidermis (top layer) isn’t part of the fascial system, the dermis (second layer) is. FR:EIA has ribbons of skin remaining to show the fascia in context to our skin. (Which connects to our muscles, which connects to our bones, superficial to deep, through our entire bodies).
- FR:EIA’s view allows us to more clearly understand that our muscles are truly integrated components – they don’t float around in space as it appears in anatomy images.
- We see how the highly innervated, deep aponeurotic fascia supplies structural stability, force transmission capacity, and energy efficiency to groups of muscles. (So there’s function and nerves and possibly pain).
- Fascia is more than just a covering and the article asks us, “How well do you know this myofascial story? Muscular contraction tensions the fascia within the muscle, transmitting force to a variety of possible locations, including tendon, bone, and other fascia, and even other muscles via more fascia for the purposes of stabilization, movement, or sensory perception and neuromuscular coordination. There’s a lot going on.”
INDEED. There is a lot going on.
The second article I reviewed in this same issue of Massage and Bodywork Magazine entitled “The Fascial Network: Our Richest Sensory Organ” by Robert Schleip is just as exciting to me.
Once believed to be simply a structural system for muscles, scientific research has now identified our fascial system as our “richest sensory organ” containing 250 million nerve endings (compared to our skin which has 200 million nerve endings).
So that fascia? The fascia that runs EVERYWHERE and connects EVERYTHING? It feels and communicates.
Approximately 100 million of the nerve receptors in our fascia are sympathetic nerve receptors (our fight or flight system). In an extensive study it was shown that “Yes, chronic sympathetic activation can induce a stiffening response in fascial tissues via an altered expression of the hormone adrenaline. Yet, this does not happen in a few hours; it is an expression of a much slower and longer lasting influence.”
And this, << Test First Name >>, is the Caregiver connection. All the sleepless nights? Worrying? PTSD? Other duties as assigned? Balancing work and caregiving? Over the long term, living in a prolonged state of fight or flight can build up tension in our fascial system and take a physical toll on our bodies.
Not so FUN FACT: According to the CDC’s article “Caregiving for Family and Friends – A Public Health Issue” 40.7% of caregivers report having tow or more chronic diseases.
In “The Fascial Network” article, Schleip further reports that studies have been conducted suggesting emotional stress may have a significant effect on myofascial pain. One of the reports included observation that back pain patients with a history of childhood maltreatment, “expressed a lower pressure pain threshold sensitivity compared with back pain patients who did not have that additional burden in their history.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Hmmm… evidence that trauma lives in our bodies??
Much of this research leads me to wonder if many of the conditions presented to me by clients are not in fact “sudden” or out of the blue, but they may be conditions accumulated over time – a long period of time – perhaps a lifetime.
Schleip also cites another study in which patients with major depressive order also presented with an increased myofascial stiffness in the back of the neck and thorasic erector spinae (muscles along the spine of the upper back), compared to healthy controls. These findings have spurred all new research.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Hmmm… therapy work WITH massage and bodywork for optimal results?
And finally, Schleip reports on a publication from Brazil that revealed gentle myofascial massage in mice resulted in a clear anti-inflammatory effect on local tissue. If this translates to humans, it could suggest that gentle myofascial massage stimulation may influence how biochemistry, nociception (body’s process of encoding noxious stimuli), and immune system regulation have an effect on one another.
Tell me Hump Day Fan, do you find this kind of research interesting? I’m always hungry to learn the science behind what my gut tells me to be true.
Because it’s all connected