Fascia, Collagen and the Fascial Network
by Stuart W. Titus, Ph.D.

FASCIA

Fascia, in Latin meaning "bands", and is a tough connective tissue which spreads throughout the body in a three dimensional web, from head to foot, without interruption. A support structure for the body, Fascia is a web of thin elastic tissue that exists in continuous layers throughout the body. The fascial network surrounds all our internal body parts, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and even internal organs. Fascia is a system of tensional integrity (or tensgresity as Bucky Fuller called it) and allows for everything inside our bodies to be held in proper place. Fascia is what makes the shape we recognize as an individual. The position, tone and condition of the fascial network make John's legs recognizably John's or Elaine's neck and head easy to identify even at a distance. Embryologically the mesoderm develops into supportive structures such as bones, muscles, tendons, fascia, etc. Thus bone, muscle, tendon and fascia are recognized by the body as one basic tissue with varying degrees of elasticity, stability and mutability according to chemical composition. All are capable of change and reorganization : being most elastic, the fascia will change immediately and extensively with treatment; bone changes over a longer time span with more conservatism to the degree of change.

There are different kinds of fascial layers. The superficial fascia is a fibroareolar tissue that houses much of the body fats. It can stretch in any direction and adjust quickly to strains of all kinds. The deep fascia is a denser layer; in the healthy body it's smooth coating permits neighboring structures to glide and slide over one another. Superficial fascia is one type of fascia which lies close to the skin in a thin elastic sheet. Strain in this outermost fascial layer is usually an indication of stress at a deeper level.

Fascia contains certain tensional forces - when injured, stressed or traumatized, fascia responds by increasing the tensional forces thus making it's own "sling" so that the injured area will be safe from further trauma. The tensional forces then may increase exponentially, binding down nerves, muscles, blood vessels, osseous structures and internal organs. With injury or trauma, a chain reaction occurs with other parts of the body and over time, pulls the body out of proper alignment. The internal structural imbalance begins a series of compensating patterns within our posture and our subconscious mind.

With injury, trauma or any inflammatory illness, not only does the fascial tension increase, but the fascial layers also respond by "gluing" affected areas around the site of injury. After the injury has healed, the fascia often "forgets" to let go and we continue our lives with this compensating layer of tension and adhesion. The deep layers, which are supposed to have a smooth gliding and sliding effect over one another, no longer slide - rather they cause adjacent structures to tug on each other. In practically all bodies, in one muscle or another, small clumps or thickened nonresilient bands can be felt deep in the tissue. The lumps may be as small as peas or as large as walnuts; the bands may be one or two inches in length.

The imbalance of tensional forces within the body creates a degree of confusion within the subconscious mind and when overwhelmed with asymmetrical myofascial forces, pain results. The mind does not perform optimally when dealing with these subconscious imbalances and/or tight muscles due to fascial adhesion and chronic shortness of collagen fibers.

Specially trained practitioners and therapists work this fascial network system to readjust the tensional dynamics, allowing for muscles, tendons, ligaments and even internal organs and bones to move back into proper alignment. A key principle is that "the body is a plastic medium" a quote from Ida P. Rolf, a pioneer in the field. The most immediate plastic component of the body that can be physically altered is fascia.


COLLAGEN

Collagen, a protein within our bodies, makes up the thin sheets and cords of the fascia. It is the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom and it comprises approximately 40% of all the proteins in the body. Collagen lends support to the basic nervous tissue: the brain and central nervous system for example, are enwrapped in fascial sheets. The collagen fibers of deep fascia are found wrapped in bundles of parallel fibers since this is the form best suited to resist tensile strength. These are found above and below the major joints - ankles, knees, wrists and elbows and in anatomical terms are known as retinacula.

Collagen fibers are able to plait or braid into extremely strong and very tough ligamentous units. In a similar manner, a rope is merely a collection of wrapped individual threads and the more the wrapping the stronger the rope. When injured, the body responds by shortening these fibers to increase the tensional force. This is the beginning of muscle restrictions and postural imbalance.

The unique properties of collagen allow for the fascia to be reshaped through therapy and permanent change to occur it's tensional forces. This phenomena of the unique properties of collagen was first thrust into the limelight by Dr. Ida P. Rolf who discovered through her studies at Columbia University in New York and while a research associate at the Rockefeller Institute. Dr. Rolf, who did her Master's thesis on collagen and connective tissue, had always been fascinated by collagen's properties.

Collagen, and thus fascia, responds to pressure placed upon it. The "viscoelastic" quality of the fascial system causes it to resist a suddenly applied therapeutic force. The old system of Myofacial Release was an attempt to force a system that was resistant to force - and it produced discomfort for patients and limited results. Proper Fascial Release needs to work slowly on tissues - the "time element" here has to do with viscous flow and the pizeoelectric phenomena: a low load applied slowly will allow fascia (a viscoelastic medium) to elongate.

More recently, the author has discovered that a similar response can be very effectively obtained through attended Micro Current Electrical Stimulation. The end-results can be accomplished with greater effectiveness in most cases versus traditional myofascial therapy or "Rolfing" and certainly with much less discomfort for the patient being treated. To this extent, the author has had extensive experience with the Electro-Acuscope & Myopulse system and from that he has developed a line of enhanced Micro Current Stimulators, treatment protocols and training in the proper techniques.

The cells of our bodies, as well as the fascia and collagen seem to carry a "memory". Due to injury or trauma, the affected cell's membrane channels (which allow for nutrient uptake and metabolic waste disposal) become paralyzed. Nutrition cannot enter the cell, toxic waste accumulates because it cannot be excreted. Often times Micro Current Electrical Stimulation erases the past memory of injury or trauma because it opens this cell membrane and its ion channels. Waste products rapidly depart the cell and new nutrition can be taken in as evidenced by Nobel Prize winning scientists in 1991 (see NY Times article from Oct 8, 1991 Cell Channel Finding Earns Nobel Prize). Evidence of past injury (scars, etc.) fade and new, healthy tissue is formed. Further research on the unique regenerative properties of Micro Current Therapy is contained in Dr. Robert O. Becker's landmark book: The Body Electric, where he describes cellular de-differentiation and re-differentiation using MicroCurrent Therapy. Certainly from Dr. Becker's work it seems that we humans can grow our own "stem cells" for regeneration of our own failing body parts…

The Micro Current Stimulation occasionally combined with manual (hands-on) therapy and/or pressure serves to hydrate and oxygenate the affected (glued) tissues which releases the fascial binding and aids removing muscular adhesion. Besides releasing "nerve entrapment" we can evidence notable postural change, increased joint and extremity mobility, as well as, new neuromuscular patterns as being the initial results. Over time, the healthier body leads to a more ideal human functioning.

Many of today's sophisticated pain management devices also aim directly or indirectly at changing fascial tension to relieve acute and chronic pain. Often overlooked by many physicians and the medical establishment, the fascial network and the unique properties of collagen will surely come under further scrutiny as our society becomes more aware of the possibilities regarding non-surgical alternative modalities involving pain management, injury rehabilitation, athletic performance and structural/postural change.

The uses of Micro Current Therapy seem endless: musculo-skeletal pain, dysfunction, wound-care, cardiovascular, athletic performance enhancement just to name but a few. This therapy is even effective for animals. A Dr. Kirsch has even developed a trans-cranial stimulation application for treating anxiety, depression, insomnia and a host of other ailments.

            
Picture of Fascia Surrounding Muscle Tissue         One-to-One Ratio of Healthy Fascia

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Dr. Titus is a proponent of the concept of an "Electrical Circulatory System" within the body (see Dr. Bjorn Nordenstrom's Biologically Closed Electrical Circuits / Systems), which has its roots in the ancient art of Chinese Acupuncture. Dr. Titus feels that proper electrical stimulus which accompanies Acupuncture Therapy, may well be the next breakthrough in the evolution of Integrative Healing Modalities. He states, "This method effectively breaks down tissue resistance, erases past tissue trauma and re-educates the functionality of the desired body part, be it extremity or internal organ. It jump-starts the healing response even in the most extreme cases".

Stuart W. Titus holds a PhD degree in Physiotherapeutics, is a Fellow with the American Association of Integrative Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pain Management. He has a Masters of Science in Health Science and a Masters of Science in Applied Science and Technology and is the developer of an enhanced line of Micro Current Stimulators.