Fascia Research

Fascia / Connective Tissue – new Focal Point of Research

The fascial network of the human body is the structure we Rolfers are working with. The recent research in fascia is therefore of great relevance for the Rolfing method. Since the First International Fascia Congress, the term “fascia” is interpretated broadly as the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body. The definition of fascia extends to all fibrous connective tissues within the body.

1. Fascia and Back Pain

Recent studies demonstrated: Many muscle pains are due to, or at least reinforced by, fascial irritations.

Lumbar fascia as an example, previously almost unregarded in back pain research: The lumbar fascia is densely innervated by potential pain receptors. During inflammatory processes in the lower back area, the sensitivity is considerably enhanced [1]. Histological studies suggest that micro injuries within the lumbar fascia are a frequent cause for back pain [2]. These and similar studies could “disburden” the intervertebral discs as a cause for back pain in several cases [3].

  1. Tesarz J, Tachuchi T, Mense S. Die Fascia thoracolumbalis als potentielle Ursache für Rückenschmerzen. Manuelle Medizin 2008; 46: 259
  2. Schleip R et al. Letter to the Editor concerning “A hypothesis of chronic back pain: ligament subfailure injuries lead to muscle control dysfunction” (M. Panjabi). European Spine Journal 2007; 16: 1733-1735
  3. Interview mit Schleip R. Rückenschmerzen, Faszien und Rolfing. BR2, Wissensredaktion. ARD Mediathek.

2. Fascia as a Sense Organ

Plasticity of fascia is not adequately explained by mechanical concepts only (like thixotrhophy or piezoelectricity) [3,4]. Fascia are highly innervated by innumerous mechano receptors [1,2].

  1. Schleip R. Fascial plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation: Part 1. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 7(1):11-19, 2003.
    Abstract (somatics.de) // Download
  2. Schleip R. Fascial plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation: Part 2. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 7(2):104-116, 2003.
    Abstract (somatics.de) // Download
  3. Dölken M. Was muss ein Manualtherapeut über die Physiologie des Bindegewebes und die Entwicklung einer Bewegungseinschränkung wissen? Manuelle Medizin 2002; 40: 169-176
  4. Threlkeld AJ. The effects of manual therapy on connective tissue. Physical Therapy 1992; 72: 893-902

3. Fascia in Movement

A considerable amount of force transmission in movement is done by intra- and extramuscular fascia [1]. Model calculations showed a significant role of the lumbar fascia in stabilizing the back in human gait [2,3].

  1. Huijing PA. Muscular force transmission necessitates a multilevel integrative approach to the analysis of function of skeletal muscle. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 2003; 31: 167-175
  2. Barker PJ et al. Effects of tensioning the lumbar fascia on segmental stiffness during flexion and extension. Spine 2006; 31: 397-405
  3. Zorn A et al. The spring-like function of the lumbar fascia in human walking. In: Findley TW, Schleip R, Hrsg. Fascia research – basic science and implications for vonventional and complementary health care. München: Elsevier; 2007: 188
    Swingwalker (Fascia Congress 2007).
  4. Schleip R, Naylor IL, Ursu D, Melzer W, Zorn A, Wilke HJ, Lehmann-Horn F, Klingler W. Passive muscle stiffness may be influenced by active contractility of intramuscular connective tissue. Medical Hypotheses 66(1):66-71, 2006.
  5. Schleip R, Klingler W, Lehmann-Horn F. Active fascial contractility: Fascia may be able to contract in a smooth muscle-like manner and thereby influence musculoskeletal dynamics. Medical Hypotheses 65(2):273-277, 2005.

4. Fascia and Manual Intervention

  1. Chaudhry HR, Schleip R, Ji Z, Bukiet B, Maney M, Findley TW. Three-dimensional mathematical model for deformation of human fasciae in manual therapy. Journal of American Osteopathic Association, 2008. 108(8):379-390
  2. Chaudhry H, Huang C, Schleip R, Ji Z, Bukiet B, Findley T. Viscoelastic behavior of human fasciae under extension in manual therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 11(2), Apr 2007.
  3. Heymann Wv, Böhni U, Locher H. Grundlagenforschung trifft Manualmedizin. Manuelle Medizin 2005; 43: 385-39
  4. Threlkeld AJ. The effects of manual therapy on connective tissue. Physical Therapy 1992.