The Science of the FasciaBlaster® Revolution
by Ashley Black
By Bart Jameson MAT, ATC, LAT, CSCS
This is a review of the current literature into fascia treatment and my hypothesis about what is physiologically happening in the human body with fascia treatment and specifically using the FasicaBlaster®.
What Happens Physiologically When Using the FasciaBlaster®:
– Fascia is considered plastic, meaning the ability to change or be manipulated. This is due to many factors:
- Piezioelectric Effect: Piezo (pressure) electricity; connective tissue is seen to behave like a liquid thus cells that produce collagen (fibroblast, fibroclasts) will respond to the electric charges.
– When pressure is applied outside the body (via the FasciaBlaster® treatment), a higher electric charge is produced inside the cell and two things happen:
- Fibroblasts- increase collagen production
- Fibroclasts- don’t break down fibers that are electrically “charged”
– Manual pressure causes an increased collagen production, while decreasing collagen turnover (breakdown).
– While this is proven to occur more information is need to understand the plasticity of tissue changes, specifically in one treatment session.
- Nervous system: without proper neural connections, the tissue is unable to respond as if under normal conditions.
- The brain is seen more as a liquid system in which fluid and gas dynamics of neurotransmitters have been more closely studied.
- Transmissions of impulses in our nervous system occur via neurotransmitters that travel along neural pathways, blood, lymph, cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), and ground substance.
- Body regulation inseparably connected with nervous, endocrine, and immune systems.
– Muscular system is largest sensory organ: CNS receives the greatest amount of sensory nerves from myofascial tissue.
– Typical muscle nerve (tibial nerve) consists of almost 3x more sensory than motor fibers. Sensory = more important than motor fibers.
Of the sensory neurons:
– Only 20% are Type I or II muscle fibers.
– The majority are III and IV afferent sensory nerve fibers aka interstitial muscle receptors – which exist abundantly in the fascia.
Remember: muscles are never activated as a whole. Motor units are activated and can be individually regulated (activated/deactivated) depending on the sensory feedback.(1)
Mechanoreceptors: sensory nerve endings that respond to mechanical tension and/or pressure.
This is what the FasciaBlaster® stimulates. Stimulation causes changes globally in the entire body via connection to the CNS and ANS via the hypothalamus.
Measurements of mechanoreceptors at the knee joint ligaments have shown:
- Stimulation causes weak effects in alpha motor neurons, strong effects in gamma motor neurons.
- Alpha and gamma motor system are usually coactivated.
- Differences between:
- Alpha system originates in the cortex, involved in volitional and precise movements of the extremities.
- Gamma system originates in the brain stem, involved in more global and unconscious postural organization of anti-gravity extensor muscles.
- Stimulation of fascia mechanoreceptors leads to changes in gamma motor tone.
- This means that the ligamentous mechanoreceptors provide a proprioceptive feedback for preparatory regulation (preprogramming) of muscle tonus around the joint. (Johansson et. All 1991). It can be inferred that this can cause changes to the structure i.e. SAID principle and Wolf’s Law.
Types of Mechanoreceptors in Fascia:
GTO: golgi tendon organ: sensory receptors found in ligaments, joint capsules, and myotendinous junctions (MTJ).
- Always inhibitory
- Detects tension; triggers relaxation
- Arranged in series with fascial fibers and respond to slow stretch by influencing the alpha motor neurons via the spinal cord to lower their firing rate i.e. to soften related muscle fibers.
- During soft tissue manipulation:
- GTO stimulated = lower firing of alpha motor neurons = decreased tension (tonus) in related tissues (fascia, muscle, ligaments, joint capsule).
- GTO are not stimulated during passive stretch; only stimulated during active contraction. GTO function to provide feedback information about dynamic force changes. i.e.: holding a weight.
- GTO receptors are arranged in a series with muscle fibers
- When passively stretched, the muscle and related myofascia results in elastic elongation of the muscle fibers.
- Less than 10% GTO are within tendon, 90% in MTJ, joint capsules, aponeurosis (fascia), and ligaments.
- The CNS can reset the GTOs; due to balance needed in biped walking (due to gravity). Function as anti-gravity receptors.
- GTO receptors are arranged in a series with muscle fibers
Pacini corpuscles– respond to rapid changes in pressure and vibrations. Stimulated by high-velocity thrust manipulations and vibrations.
- More frequent on tendon, joint capsules, deep spinal ligaments, muscular fascia (antebrachial, crural, abdominal, IT band, plantar/palmar fascia).
Ruffini organs (endings)- do not adapt as quickly, respond to long-term pressure. Activated by slow and deep soft tissue techniques. Extreme ROM
- More frequent on tissues associated with stretching (outer joint capsule, dura mater, ligaments, deep dorsal hand).
- Specially responsive to lateral stretch
- Stimulation leads to inhibition of sympathetic nervous system activity. Ex: slow deep tissue techniques = relaxation of tissue
– Both are found in all types of dense connective tissue (fascia, tendons, ligaments, aponeurosis, joint capsules).
Interstitial muscle receptors- Type III & IV muscle fiber- 10% myelinated (Type III), 90% unmyelinated (Type IV). Considered slower than type I & II. Most originate in free nerve endings or as mechanoreceptors. Serve multi-use function (pain, thermo, chemo) most serve as mechanoreceptors.
- Divided into high and low threshold pressure units.
- Soft tissue manipulation stimulates both units.
– Since these interstitial tissue receptors function as pain and mechanoreceptors, in the presence of pain their sensitivity changes. Normal physiological pressure changes often lead to strong and chronic firing of these receptors.
– Most sensory input from the myofasical tissue from Type III & IV interstitial receptors.
– These receptors have also been shown to have autonomic functions– stimulation of their sensory endings lead to changes in HR, BP, respiration, etc.
- Type IV receptors tend to increase arterial blood pressure, Type III shows increase and decrease in arterial BP.
– Shows that a major function of the interstitial tissue receptors is to fine-tune the nervous system’s regulation of blood flow according to local demands via ANS.
– Stimulating the interstitial mechanoreceptors can trigger an increase in vagal tone (Vagus Nerve- Cranial Nerve X) which leads to a trophotropic tuning of the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is involved in the regulation of endocrine, autonomic and behavioral functions. It does so by releasing neurotransmitters in the body that have effects on the ANS resulting in global neuromuscular, emotional, cortical and endocrinal changes.
- Fascial smooth muscle cells:
– Research completed in 1996 by a German anatomy professor found smooth muscle cells embedded in within collagen fibers. Smooth muscle cells are cells in the body’s organs, never before seen in connective tissue. He described the fascial network as “rich intrafascial supply of capillaries, autonomic nerves and sensory nerve endings.“ It was concluded that the fascial smooth muscle cells enable the autonomic nervous system to regulate fascial pre-tension independent of the muscular tonus (9,10).
– Compared to striated muscle cells, smooth muscle cells allow a more efficient transformation of chemical energy into mechanical strength.
-Tonus regulation of fascial smooth muscle cells is thought to be controlled via the sympathetic nervous system and become activated with stimulation of the intrafascial mechanoreceptors (2, 8).
What Does This All Mean?
The FasciaBlaster® has an impact on mechanoreceptors found in connective tissue. When using the FasciaBlaster®, you are stimulating the mechanoreceptors in the various soft tissue structures. Stimulating these mechanoreceptors has global effects due to the connection to hypothalamus and its resulting release of neurotransmitters.
– Myofascial manipulation stimulates mostly the interstitial-fascial (Type III & IV) mechanoreceptors. This leads to an altered proprioceptive input to the CNS, which results in changed tonus regulation of the motor units associated with this tissue due to changes in gamma motor tone.
– Ruffini organs (Type II) & interstitial fascial receptors effect the ANS. Stimulating can result in lowering sympathetic tone, or changes in local vasodilation (increased blood flow). This is done due to the known presence of fascial smooth muscle cells (2,9,10).
Effects of fascial work: This table describes the effects on the mechanoreceptors from fascial manipulation.
The FasciaBlaster® stimulates the body’s natural inflammation and thus, the healing process. Over time the body compensates based on movement patterns, injury history, current physical demands, and much more. Fascial adhesions develop because the body is trying to make itself a stable and functional unit. Over time pain and dysfunction develop.
A study by a German surgeon looking at the fascial adhesions described the adhesions as “an increased amount and thickness of collagen fibers in the tissue”. This causes a decrease in nerve conduction, blood flow and function of the tissue because the vessels are being strangled. By using the FasciaBlaster® on the tissue, the fibers are broken down and the restrictions are loosened. Blood flow and connective tissue cells then come in and repair the damage done by the fascial adhesions. This is the acute inflammation stage. After 24-72 hours the inflammation ceases and this is when the activation of the muscle is important. By activating the tissue, the neural connection is improving and the body decides to increase the strength of the tissue if stimulated enough.
Following are the depictions of the lines of fascia. We believe the FasciaBlaster® is the most efficient self-treating device for palpating these lines.
Provides a map of fascial tension in the body and shows patterns of treatment protocols based on movement and the individual.
- .Superficial Back Line (SBL):
connects the entire posterior surface of the body from the bottom of the foot to the top of the head in 2 pieces: 1) toes to knees; 2) knees to occiput
1) support body in full extension (except with hamstrings)
2) prevent tendency to curl over into extension
– high proportion of slow twitch
– extra heavy fascial sheets (i.e. Achilles’ tendon)
1) Create extension (flexion @ knees, plantar flexion @ ankle)
– Various types of forward bending (flexion &/or rotation/sb) = stretch SBL
– Postural hyperextension = hypertonus or shortened SBL myofascia
Superficial Front Line: (SFL):
Connects the entire anterior surface of the body from the top of the feet to the side of the skull in 2 pieces: 1) toes to pelvis; 2) pelvis to head.
When the hip is extended (i.e. standing upright), it functions as one continuous line of integrated fascia.
1) balance out the SBL
2) provide tensile support from the top to lift body parts which extend forward in gravity (pubis, rib cage, face.)
3) provide postural knee extension (Genu recurvatum)
– Sagital postural balance primarily maintained by relationship between SBL & SFL
– SFL tends to shift down, SBL tends to shift up (pathology develops)
Spiral Line (SL):
Loops around the body in a helix, joining one side of the skull across to the opposite shoulder, and then across the front to the same hip, knee, and foot arch, running up the back of the body to rejoin the fascia on the skull.
Wraps the body in a double spiral that helps maintain balance across all planes. Connects the foot arches with the pelvis, helps determine knee tracking in walking
– In imbalance, the SL participates in creating, compensating for, and maintaining twists, rotations, and lateral shifts in the body. SL also contributes to other meridians.
Create and mediate spirals and rotations in the body.
Arm Lines (SL):
4 distinct myofascial meridians
Superficial Front Arm Line (SFAL) Pectoralis Major -> wrist flexors -> palmar hand
Deep Front Arm Line (DFAL) – Pectoralis Minor -> Biceps -> Thenar (thumb) muscle extensors
Superficial Back Arm Line (SBAL) – Trapezius -> Deltoid-> wrist extensors
Deep Back Arm Line (DBAL) – Rhomboids, levator scapulae -> Rotator cuff -> triceps ->hypothenar muscles (pinky)
– More myofascial crossover than legs (due to increased mobility in shoulder)
– Elbow position affects the mid-back
– Shoulder position affects the ribs and neck.
move the upper extremities through normal biomechanics.
The Functional Lines:
Extensions of the Arm Lines across the surface of the trunk to the contralateral pelvis and leg.
Power and precision to the movements of the limbs.
Deep Front Line:
Through the pelvis, DFL has intimate relationship at the hip joint and relates the pulse of breathing and the rhythm of walking to each other.
DFL plays a major role in the body’s support:
– lifting the inner arch
– stabilizing each segment of the legs
– supporting the lumbar spine from the front
– stabilizing the chest while allowing the expansion and relaxation of breathing
– balancing the fragile neck and head
Lack of support, balance, and proper tonus of the DFL will produce overall shortening of the body and encourage collapse in the pelvic and spinal cord.
Movement function: No primary movement function. More stability function.
Traverses each side of the body from the medial and lateral midpoint of the foot around the outside of the ankle and up the lateral aspect of the leg and thigh, passing along the trunk in a “basket weave” pattern to the skull near the ear.
LL functions posturally to balance front, back, and bilaterally to balance left and right. Also mediates forces among the other superficial lines (SFL, SBL, Arm, Spiral).
Creating lateral bend (lateral flexion of the trunk, abduction at the hip, eversion at the foot), and functions as an adjustable “brake” for lateral and rotational movements of the trunk.
- Schleip, Robert. “Fascial Plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation Part 1.” Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2003. 7(1);11-19 http://www.somatics.de/artikel/for-professionals/2-article/54-fascial-plasticity-a-new-neurobiological-explanation
- Schleip, Robert. “Fascial Plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation Part 2.” Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2003. 7(1);11-19 http://www.somatics.de/artikel/for-professionals/2-article/54-fascial-plasticity-a-new-neurobiological-explanation
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