In an earlier time in the study of the human body, fascia was not seen as an important venture. Vast stretches of fascia didn't even get names. Which is bizarre because, anatomists name every bump, dip, nook, cranny, crevice, etc.
The fascia was scraped away to reveal other structures that were; one can only assume, more glamorous or in some way took precedence over the casings around those structures. These days bodyworkers, yoga practitioners, and other like-minded folk are taking another look at fascia, and I am pretty sure we owe the majority of that to Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D. - a biochemist and developer of structural integration. Before her groundbreaking work, fascia was mostly thought of as unimportant (Just the Grandmother of all fascial work today… no big deal.)
Though not all anatomists agreed and not all fascias went unnamed. There are, (as Gill Hedly, Ph.D. calls them),”Famous Fascias.” The fascia lata, and the more ropy embedment within it the iliotibial band, the galea aponeurotica (best name ever!), and the thoracolumbar aponeuroses (runner up!), and the retinacula - to name a few. These fascias are treated by most anatomy texts as separate tissue with individual structure and function from the surrounding soft tissues. However, they are not separate. All of the above-mentioned fascias actually belong to a continuous fascial layer known as,"the deep fascia."
If you are reading this blog, you know there are (at least) three layers of skin. Epidermis - this is the outer layer. Often, quite appallingly referred to as a layer of “dead” skin. The dermis - this is the layer where the majority of the specialized skin structures, like sweat glands, oil glands, specialized nerve endings for touch and temperature sensing, are located. And then the subcutaneous layer. The latter being the “fatty” layer. This fatty layer is known to bodyworkers as the superficial fascia. So the deep fascia, then, is one layer deeper than the subcutaneous layer of skin.
Perhaps the easiest way to understand the deep fascia (which is not that deep, actually), is to consider preparing a roasted chicken. Now, there are two ways to get a ‘whole’ chicken to roast. One is with the skin on and the other, increasingly more common has the skin removed. Not sure which one you have been getting? Look for the follicles where the quills once were. If there isn’t a goose flesh appearance to the outside of your chicken, it has had the skin removed. In my area, it is easier to get a turkey with the skin on than a chicken. Not sure why.
So, what most of us have been calling the “skin” of the chicken, is the deep fascia. It is a shiny, translucent layer that wraps around everything, just deep to the skin.
Okay, now that we have established where and what this layer is, let's talk about its importance. Firstly, we can gain a level of understanding around its function when we look at those so-called famous fascias. Let’s take the retinacula for a moment. In the retinacula of the ankles and wrists, we find a functional understanding of the deep fascia. The purpose? Primarily, they act as a part of a pulley system, strapping the long ropy tendinous extensions of muscles down and keeping them on track. Without them, one might imagine muscles or at least their tendons slipping out of place; causing unintended movements.
The facial muscles are also very interesting when it comes to this deep fascia. Typically, when teaching basic musculoskeletal concepts, I try to convince my audience to think of muscles as rubber bands running from one bone to another; pulling bones in their intended direction. However, the majority of facial muscles are actually embedded within this deep fascia. The purpose? Facial expression.
Deep fascia has a contractile nature, due to the smooth muscle contained within. However, the muscles of facial expression are true, “skeletal” muscles, embedded within the deep fascia allowing for much more contractility. Thus, assisting in communicating emotion and thought as well as self-expression in a non-verbal way. The furrowed brow, the flared nostril, the wink, and the modern selfy pose known as, “Duck Face.” What the heck does duck face mean anyway? What are they saying with duck face?!
The famous iliotibial band (IT Band) works the same way. It is a ropy thickening within the fascia lata which is pulled by the muscular contractions of gluteus maximus and tensor fascia lata.
The deep fascia holds tension from positions we hold in space. If we slouch, over the years, this fascial layer will hold that slouch. If we hold our head forward, the fascia will learn that posture as well. Not only will it learn our resting positions, but it builds layers of thickness based on activities. This is why the retinacula are so famous. They are thickenings in the deep fascia because of all of the tendinous movement underneath them.
As always - this fascia has a fluid which allows photon energy to pass through it, generates piezoelectricity, holds tissue memory, and all the other neat stuff fascia does.
Disclosure: This post originally contained affiliate links, which could have meant that I could have received money for blogging, assuming someone bought the fascial related book I linked to, from the store which the link came from.
However, I removed the affiliate links, because I didn't want to support the machine. It felt uncomfortable - less like my blog and more like some one else's blog. Within a day or so, some other blogger contacted me wanting to do a "blog swap." Where they would get on my blog and essentily market themselves to my readers. I could, in turn, do the same for their blog. I looked at their site, it was all about selling supplements.
I can't help but think these two events where somehow related. I bite on a silly idea about affiliate links and some silly supplement peddling blog wants to affiliate with me. At any rate, it was clear to me, that isn't what I am about. Its a process... I am processing...
Thanks for reading!
PS I still think reading a book by Ida P. Rolf would change your life. I also think watching Gill Hedly's integral anatomy series is the best thing I ever did for my understanding of fascia.