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SECTION 4

FASCIA: PART C

4.1: FASCIA AND THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM

FASCIA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM

Firstly, a brief re-cap of the endocrine system:

“The endocrine system works closely with the nervous system. By manufacturing and regulating hormones, the endocrine system prompts long-term changes in various organ and system activities. Hormones are the chemicals secreted by the organs of the endocrine system, which include the pituitary, pineal, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenal glands, and parts of the pancreas, ovary and testis. Blood carries these chemicals to receptive organs, which respond with change.”[i]

In comparison to other areas of research within anatomy and physiology, fascia research is relatively new, yet there are increasing amounts of findings which are giving us insight into the relationship between fascia and the endocrine system.

Robert Schleip in his paper “Fascia as a Sensory Organ: A Target of Myofascial Manipulation”iii states how fascial mechanoreceptors are vital for communication with the endocrine system. A large portion of the sensory neurons in the enteric brain are mechanoreceptors which are vital for neuroendocrine changes, with research discovering that at least 90% of serotonin (5HT) is produced in the enteric system[ii][iii]. 5HT being paramount for physical and mental health, and the enteric system is located in the gut, just below the diaphragm. Furthermore, the enteric nervous system (ENS) has more neurons than all the peripheral ganglia combined, containing potentially more than the spinal cord[iv], and the peristaltic reflex which is a reflex in the small intestine and colon that is mediated by the nervous system and causes caudad propulsion of chyme, of which this mechanically stimulates the mucosa causing enterochromaffin cells (EC cells) to release 5HT onto local receptors of intrinsic primary afferent neurons (IPANs)xiii.

Considering the mechanotransduction sensitive receptors regarding stretch and chemical stimuli of the visceral peritoneum which includes the celiac and mesenteric sympathetic plexuses and parasympathetic system[v], and the parietal peritoneum receptors are pressure and heat sensitivexiv, it at least reveals the potentials of movement and manual therapy for this area. There is a surmountable level of sensory nerve endings in the abdominal area which respond to pressure and stretch, so whilst the parietal peritoneum is superficial and thus can be easily accessed regarding pressure application for manual therapy, accessing the stretch receptors of the deep visceral peritoneum is much more difficult. Myofascial release is one technique that could help offer release as the abdomen consists of many fascial layers which connects the rectus abdominis muscle to the pubic bone[vi], yet physically applying stretch to the area remains a challenge for manual therapy. However, there is movement potential which could aid this stretching, and that is diaphragmatic breathing. Whilst this will be discussed in further detail in Chapter 3, diaphragmatic breathing consists of increasing pressure within the gut through inhalation which will naturally provide stretch as the internal organs adapt to the pressure, and then reducing the pressure as the diaphragm contracts once more and thus reducing stretch. Thus there is potential to improve gut function through breathing patterns which is discussed in the next Section (Section 5).

Consequently, whilst there is currently little research on this area, there are at least insights into how fascia could play a role on the endocrine system. Through this research, there is potential guidance for manual therapists regarding treatments including techniques to help reduce symptoms of chronic stress, and also the general public regarding simple breathing pattern practices. Considering that the enteric system has now been named the ‘second brain’[vii], there are great potentials, however, the extent is yet unknown.

 

[i] Premkumar, K. (2012). Anatomy & Physiology, 3rd Ed. + Study Guide. 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, pp.11-12.

[ii] Gershon, M. D., & Tack, J. (2007). The serotonin signaling system: from basic understanding to drug development for functional GI disorders. Gastroenterology, 132(1), 397-414. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2006.11.002

[iii] Stoller-Conrad, J., 2015. Microbes Help Produce Serotonin in Gut [online]. CALTECH: Research News 04 September 2015. Available via: https://www.caltech.edu/news/microbes-help-produce-serotonin-gut-46495. [Accessed 22 October 2016).

[iv] Rao, M., & Gershon, M. D. (2016). The bowel and beyond: the enteric nervous system in neurological disorders. Nature reviews Gastroenterology & hepatology, 13(9), 517. Doi: 10.1038/nrgastro.2016.107

[v] Bordoni, B., Simonelli, M., & Morabito, B. (2019). The other side of the fascia: the smooth muscle part 1. Cureus, 11(5). Doi: 10.7759/cureus.4651

[vi] Earls, J. and Myers, T. (2010). Fascial release for structural balance. Chichester: Lotus Publishing, pp.160-161.

[vii] Gershon, M. D. (1999). The enteric nervous system: a second brain. Hospital Practice, 34(7), 31-52. https://doi.org/10.3810/hp.1999.07.153

4.2: FASCIA ROUND-UP

Every living thing has fascia in some form, the characteristics of the fascia depends on its environment (internal and external), to which there are fascial differences within humans. There is a spectrum of fascial tensegrity ranging from the ‘Viking’ which is quite dense which creates friction and thus heat, and has quick repairing mechanisms, to the other end of the spectrum of ‘Dancers’ whose fascia is highly elastic and has low friction. Consequently, there is consideration that the ‘Viking’ characteristics were developed in cold climates, whereas the ‘Dancers’ characteristics were developed in more tropical climates.

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: If the body has adapted to its internal and external environment in the past, what says that it still not adapting? Genetic research has found that genes can adapt to their environment and enables us to store information such as stress and trauma, so there is potential that the requirements of modern society could be detrimentally impacting people on a genetic level, including fascia and posture. Furthermore, if an individual does minimal exercise and works the majority of the time at a desk or driving for example, their Functional Line may become weaker which can place strain on the remaining Anatomy Trains – is there potential for an individuals genetic coding to adapt and store this information, and moreover, pass on to future generations meaning children with weaker or adapted Functional Lines?

 

In clinic at Move Well Nottingham, Kim is consistently analysing postures and biomechanics to help gain further insight into how their bodies work regarding both postural and functional – it is surprising how much the body can tell you if you know how and where to look, and you should be starting to learn yourself!

FASCIA: MAIN TAKEAWAY POINTS

  • Continuous sheath of connective tissue throughout the body connecting head to toe

  • It's the bodies main proprioceptive organ aiding balance, movement, reaction. The healthier the elascticity vs tension, the better the proprioception.

  • Reduces friction throughout the body by encasing everything like cling film, and thus aids cadence with movement.

  • There are different types of fascia with different constitutions, their make-up adapted for each of their specific responsibilities and functions.

  • Anatomy Trains involve 7 continues paths of fascia throughout the body which together enable posture and movement, but dysfunction in 1 can create compensation patterns in the other 6.

  • Every living thing has some form of fascia, or at least matter with fascial properties, it is NOT solely found in humans.

  • It has endocrine properties, to which is being researched further.

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