We have been told about muscle memory for years. But because of study and practice, I have become increasingly convinced that muscles do less remembering, and the fascia does more.
It is difficult to directly access living fascia. within a living and moving being. Much medical teaching is done using cadavers. But in a cadaver the fascia is dehydrated, it is only changing in a life-less way, shrinking back and even disappearing. The fascia changes during and after surgeries on a living being. The intertwining connections seek to build back the tissue linkages constantly. These connections often thicken or stick to other structures after surgery. That is why it is important to keep the tissues mobile after surgery - so they heal maintaining mobility....otherwise they become like concrete as they "re-twine" the body back together.
Part of the reason for medicine's overlooking of fascia is this access limitation. When an organism dies its fascia very quickly dehydrates and sort of "disappears". Another part is that there is just an enormous amount of fascia.....it has so many names, thicknesses, purposes (even other than connecting)......for me, I consider the edging of everything fascia....from the edge of a cell wall outward to the edge of the inside of the outermost layer of skin. That may or may not be a perfectly true assessment, but that is how I view it after study and practice. I also include callouses and scars - they grow in response to friction to cushion and ,to seal after cutting.
Basically, if it functions like fascia - I call it fascia for my purposes.
Running a finger or any "solid" object against fascia melts it back, and once it is melted back it does not rebound in post-living tissue. You can see this in Gil Hedley's "The Fuzz Speech".
I am a hunter, and when you kill an animal you commonly 'let it cool" before skinning it. I had never really wondered why, except it was just easier that way. And this was the way I was taught a long time ago. Now I know why - it is because of the nature of fascia.
I have gotten in a hurry before, and started to work on a squirrel or rabbit quickly....... and the tissues are stretchy and sticky when the body is still warm. It is really hard to work with until the body actually "cools down". After the body has lost its life heat and the fascia melts easily back with touch.....the fascia is then more solid and more non-reviving. The fascia becomes a less clinging medium.
We know that warmth and coolness affect all tissues to some extent. However, fascia is very heat-affected.....more so than even muscle. The linking "bridges" or "diaphragms" collapse and become substantially less sticky a short time after death. The interconnected webbing stiffens and shrinks. Layers and links that would have been supported and held apart by body liquids during life, upon the coolness of death solidify together and become relatively rigid.
That is the challenge of working with fascia - relativeness and constant change.. Everything is relative concerning fascia. Everything about fascia in a living being constantly changes. To work with fascia I have found you have to work within the parameters of this relativeness and change.
Which appeals to me as a massage therapist, for I see our profession standing within the bounds of both Art and Science. We maintain a foot in each as we practice our chosen craft. This is why we must Study Science and Practice Artfully being always present and aware "in the moment" of these shifting factors.
It is much like surfing waves of the ocean. You take what it gives you, educated by the science you know, and go from there minute to minute. Our bodies are so much like living miry clay. The temperature, moisture, historical amount of modeling and remodeling.....all define how the clay will act, react and adapt (as in the case of our living bodies) - like living sticky clay.
You have probably noticed how fascia reacts to heat - like clay reacts to heat. If you cook with beef you know this. It is easier to thinly slice beef when it is chilled, even better slightly frozen. When it is cooled it becomes more solid. When it is warmer it is so floppy that it is hard to cut evenly, because it wriggles around as you try to pull or push the knife through it.
When beef is partially cooked (medium rare) it becomes both pliable and solid. " Well done" is even more solid. What is gristle in beef? Really thick fascia. Think about how tough gristle is to chew. When I think of that toughness, and then I think of a person's shoulder that is "fasciaed down" after being immobilized in a cast for weeks - it is no wonder the shoulder will not move. The body has essentially glued it down by fascia, tough unyielding fascia. Gristle.
Fascia immobilizes our bodies and body parts when we cease to move it about constantly. Plus the fascia adapts its thickness according to what we need it to do. It builds when we need cushioning or marathon endurance strength. It also builds to encapsulate foreign substances.
I have a friend who once harvested a deer and while preparing the meat found a broadhead (a metal arrow end) inside the muscle. It was completely encapsulated in layer after layer of white webbing. The webbing was a complete container around broadhead. Until he cut open the webbing pocket he could not see the broadhead at all. It was described to me as sort of like an oyster making a pearl, layer upon layer upon layer. Apparently the deer had been shot with an arrow at some time, and it was not a fatal wound. The shaft of the arrow must have broken off and left the broadhead inside the deer's flesh. The skin closed up. Then the deer's body wrapped the foreign object in fascia webbing and just kept going.
I so much would have loved to have had a photo of this....but did not know the hunter at the time.
The fascia webbing network is all over the inside of living bodies. It is everywhere.
Each cell, each sarcomere, each muscle fiber bundle, every tendon, every bone, every organ, every epidermal layer......every edge of every thing is fascia. And every part has an inside and an outside edge - one edge touching the Without and one containing the Within.
Our connective tissues are the great highway system of the body. The fascial "pockets" contain our muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, and bones. All of this fascia has different names, but it is connective tissue still - fascia. And it all communicates with itself from head to toe. That is why I contend that fascial memory is more prevalent than muscle memory. Although I am doubtful at this time, that it will catch on and surpass muscle memory as a term for a while yet.
The gastrocnemius, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, latisimus dorsi, trapezius - all fascially connected with each other and many additional structures. It is fascial memory which notes where the body holds in space, the pressures within and without, the tension and torsion present.
It is the one common link of all body structure.
Our "fascia suit" is both the limit and expansion of us.
Isn't the living body amazing? Our sinews binding us together....our fascia.
Gil Hedley, "The Fuzz Speech"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdRqLrCF_Ys
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