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A 'mysterious body part': Fascia challenges Medicine

by Eefje van de Ven January 14, 2016

One of our favourite 'Rolfers' is Dr. Robert Schleip, of the fascia research institute in Germany.
He referred to fascia before in one of his presentations as 'the Cinderella Tissue'. A somewhat forgotten part of our bodies, tucked away and not spoken of. Where does the mystery around this tissue come from and how can we shine a light on this topic without it being vaguely described or compared to a fairytale?

Researchers, medicine and alternative (bodywork) practitioners share a mutual interest in the topic 'fascia'.
This word has been defined in various ways, however here we like to stick to a rather straightforward explanation of fascia (FRC, 2012):  

"soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body".

According to these same scientists, it could also be described as: "fibrous collagenous tissues which are part of a body wide tensional force transmission system”.
These definitions were proposed as a basis for the first Fascia Research Congress (by Findley and Schleip, 2007, and further developed by Huijing and Langevin after this congres, in 2009).

To an array of scientists, therapies that include descriptions like 'complimentary', 'alternative' or 'integrative' have been talking about the importance and existence of fascia in a rather spiritual and metaphysical manner and therefore are not valid to many (scientific) researchers or doctors who 'd rather do away with this so-called sheath of 'no-purpose tissue' in the body.
To associate with alternative practitioners and this much used theory of fascia being the answer to mobility and pain-related issues... their scientific reputation was on the line, mind you. 

Influenced by the work of Ida Rolf, 'structural integration' or 'rolfing', as a holistic bodywork approach has been picked up though by well respected MD's such as Thomas Findley, bringing fascia into research institutes and laboratories of medical clinics where an increasing amount of doctors found common ground and understanding for the so-far 'overlooked tissue' called fascia, or connective tissue with several (superficial or deeper lying) layers.
As long as the word 'energy' - which 'integrative therapists' commonly work with -  was left at the coffee break table. 

Indeed, an increasing amount of alternative medicine sceptics have shook off their critics partly and let the scientific and dissection results in the field of connective tissue, convince them. The now popular name in the field of 'bodywork meets science' is Dr. Robert Schleip: Rolfing practitioner turned human biologist and Director of the fascia research group at the University of Ulm. He makes a mission out of finding what fascia really means to us in terms of movement and pain perception and definitely is not out there to prove that 'bodywork miracles' can be linked directly to this tissue. 

On the crossing point where alternative medicine and clinical medicine meet, criticism is still heard however many now agree the field of fascia research is a field of great neglect, and remains sorely under-investigated, for there is intuitive sense that a tissue found throughout the whole body, would harbor medical or therapeutic significance. 

The word is out since a few years now: fascia is challenging medicine, which is one giant leap for this no longer 'mysterious body part' which connects everything in our bodies. Now let's keep our eyes and ears open for future revelations and keep on learning.. we stay curious and FASCIAnated!  

To stay up to date, we recommend following the Fascia Research Society

influenced by article
"How a Mysterious Body Part Called Fascia Is Challenging Medicine"
author: Robbie Gonzalez


Eefje van de Ven
Eefje van de Ven