Excerpted from the preface of The Fasciae: Anatomy, dysfunction & Treatment
by Serge Paoletti (Eastland Press, Seattle 1998)
…All soft tissues, and in particular the fascia, derive originally from the same embryonic layer, the mesoderm, which is actually at the origin of all bodily tissues apart from the skin and the mucosae. The mesoderm gives rise not only to those elements conventionally defined as fascia, but also to cartilage and bone, which in reality are no more than particularly dense forms of fascial tissue.
The fasciae constitute an uninterrupted sheet of tissue that extends from the head to the feet and from the exterior to the interior. This is a perfectly continuous system that is suspended from body structures to form a fully integrated supporting framework.
The ubiquitous fasciae not only invest the external surface of all the body’s diverse structures – muscles, organs, nerves, vessels – but also form the internal matrices which support these structures and maintain their integrity. For this reason we can say that the fasciae constitute and envelope responsible for maintaining structure and anatomical form throughout the body, right down the the level of the individual cells, which are bathe in the ground substance of the fascial system. This superficial envelope over the entire body is repeatedly divided to cerate and ever-more complex network of compartments and connections. For enhanced efficacy, the fasciae are anchored to the skeleton, not by simple contiguity, but rather by insinuation into the osseous trabeculae via Sharpey’s fibers.
In all the diverse anatomical sites of the body, the fasciae show remarkable adaptability in terms of their shape, structure and composition. The fascial elements in muscular tissues, conventionally described as tendons and ligaments, are the densest and therefore the strongest tissues, making them suitable for the job that they are required to perform – anchoring muscle and bone to bone. Conversely the areolar tissue, which makes up the fasciae that invests the glands, is relatively loosely structured.
Distributed throughout the body, the fasciae play a fundamental role in human physiology. This role takes many forms: maintaining posture; maintaining the structure of the organs; guaranteeing the anatomic integrity o divers internal structures; and investing the muscles to support them and allow them to generate force. One important role for he fascial system is to provide “transmission belts” for the endogenous and exogenous forces which the body generates itself and to which it is subjected form the outside. This function allows the body to move in an efficient, coordinated manner and respond to external phenomena. However, these same networks for fascial elements can also participate in the propagation of pathological forces, thereby mediating a chain reaction of damaging consequences. One of their key functions is the absorption of shocks.
Finally, these tissues play a primary role in many physiological transport processes and defense mechanisms. The ground substance of the fasciae is in direct contact with the cells of the body and prides the medium of exchange that ensures efficient communication between the extracellular and intracellular environments. The fasciae constitute the first defensive barrier against external insults and come into play prior to any kind of mobilization of the immune system. The fasciae anre thus capable of autonomous decision -making. One could even speak of this system as a “peripheral brain.”
The fasciae are endowed with “cellular memory” derived from embryonic growth, which is manifested in the form of a regular, rhythmic motility. This “cellular memory” enables the fasciae to register any deformation which they undergo and, up to a certain point, to correct it. However, if the deformation is too extreme, it is beyond correction by the fasciae acting alone and progressive pathology can result.
Our hands can sense that motility as well and the evidence of damage to the tissues. With certain specific techniques nd manipulations we can help the fasciae to resolve nonphysiological stress patterns and and thereby regain their normal functionality.”