A living image of the fascia is essential for thorough osteopathic diagnosis and treatment. Dr. Still said:

“I know of no part of the body that equals the fascia as a hunting ground.”

Consider a membranous envelope that glistens with a slick lubricating fluid. A continuous envelope that extends from head to toe, front to back, surrounding every organ, every blood vessel, every nerve, every bone, every muscle. An envelope that changes thickness as it extends from region to region. Its purpose: to support and lubricate. An example of its function: to prevent a muscle from catching on its neighboring muscles as it contracts.

Anatomists have conceptually broken this continuous sheath of tissue into small pieces, ignoring its continuity, and give the same structure different names as it passes from one part of the body to the next. The tendency of anatomists to break fascia down into little pieces, only serves to confuse and disorient us. It is the continuity of this lubricating, supportive, fascial envelope that enables us to better understand the fundamental osteopathic principle: UNITY OF FUNCTION.

Microscopically, fascia is composed of collagen and elastin. Collagen is arranged in tiny micro-tubules. Form follows function. Tubules must transport something. That something is generally considered to be “tissue fluids.”

Blood vessels and nerves travel within the fascia to arrive at their designated end organs. In turn, fascia itself receives a profound number of nerve endings. The fascia is a fundamental structure in which the circulatory system and nervous system converge. Dr. Still said it this way:

“All… nerves go to and terminate in that great system, the fascia.”

Fascial continuity, its nervous system investments, and vascular relationships clearly demonstrate how all parts work together. The Human Body is a Unity of Function.

Pull on a persons arm, they feel it in their shoulder and neck, even if only the skin is tractioned. In health, fluids flow with relative ease from one fascial compartment to the next. When a traumatic injury pattern is established, the fascia may twist and compress. The exchange of fluid may become compromised, and physiology may be impaired.

Knowledge of the fascia is practically applied on a daily basis. Freedom of fascial continuity is a goal of osteopathic treatment. When the fascia becomes compressed or twisted, tensions are transmitted along the fascial planes. When an individual experiences hip pain, tissue restriction might be occuring in another location. An ankle, for example, may be restricted enough to be pulling superiorly… enough to influence the hip. This transmission of tension through the fascial plances is referred to as Fascial Drag. Knowledge of living anatomy is essential. As Dr. Still said:

“This connecting substance must be free at all parts to receive and discharge all fluids, and use them in sustaining animal life, and eject all impurities, that health may not be impaired by dead and poisonous fluids.”

Osteopathic treatment unravels these fascial strains, re-establishing fluid continuity throughout the body. We live and breathe through our fascia. Again, from Dr. Still:

“By its action we live and by its failure we die.”

When our fascia is free, we are free. This is one my favorite quotes from Dr. Still:

“The soul of man, with all the streams of pure living water, seems to dwell in the fascia of his body.”