Marlene Siegel, DVM
Until just about 20 years ago, the fascia - our network of connective tissue - was disregarded for its beauty and intelligence. Now however it has been revealed as a brilliant living sensory fabric that covers and connects every aspect of the body; muscles, bones, nerves and organs. Like skin is to the body, fascia is the skin to the cells and connects the trillions of cells, creating mobility, stability and the communication system between all the cells in the body. It is constantly adapting to environmental stresses and changing to meet the body’s structural demands. Nutrients travel through this matrix to the cells and waste products from the cells are removed and transported through the lymph system to be excreted.
The Fascia Team
The fascia is commonly described in terms of three primary types: superficial fascia, deep fascia, and visceral fascia. However, there are several other types, including neural fascia. These types of fascia serve distinct functions and are found in different regions of the body.
Superficial fascia is under the skin and in the adipose tissue. It is responsible for offering structural support and protection, regulating temperature and transporting nutrients.
Deep/muscular fascia is found throughout the body, surrounding individual muscles and groups of muscles. It gives structural support, helps transmit forces generated by muscles, and aids in coordinating movement. Deep fascia can also compartmentalize muscles to prevent excessive movement and maintain efficiency.
The visceral fascia covers the organs - helping to anchor them in place, allowing them to move against each other, and providing a framework for the passage of blood vessels and nerves to the organs.
Neural fascia are the meningeal layers and connective tissues that envelop the peripheral nerves. This highly dynamic and complex connective tissue network is embedded in the extra cellular matrix and nervous tissue.1
The Cinderella Tissue Is Recognized and Honored
Andrew Taylor Still (1828- 1917), physician, surgeon and the founder of osteopathy, noted that the fascia covers, permeates, divides and subdivides every portion of the body. He further declared that healthy functioning fascia supports life, where the failure of the fascia to function properly leads to our death.
At the Fourth International Fascia Research Congress, which was held near Washington, DC in September of 2015, two definitions of fascia were proposed: it was called both “a fascia” and “the fascial system”.
A fascia is “a sheath, a sheet, or any other dissectible aggregations of connective tissue that forms beneath the skin to attach, enclose, and separate muscles and other internal organs”.
The fascial system “consists of the three dimensional continuum of soft, collagen-containing, loose and dense fibrous connective tissues that permeate the body, providing an environment that enables all body systems to operate in an integrated manner”. The first definition is a morphological/anatomical definition, while the second is a functional one.1
The predominant cell population of the fascia tissue are fibroblast. Their primary role is to respond to stimuli. In doing so they maintain the structural integrity and organization of the tissue. Fibroblasts are involved in mechanotransduction and in secreting precursors of the extracellular matrix.
Mechanotransduction refers to the biological phenomenon wherein mechanical stresses applied to cells are translated into chemical signals that elicit adaptive responses such as vasodilation of blood vessels, interpreting sound/hearing, postural balance, sensation of joint position, muscle contraction, and touch.2
Simply put, through our lifestyle choices we are communicating to our cells what is happening on the “outside” so they know how to respond to ensure our survival. How awesome is THAT!!!
What Damages Fascia
Scar formation, whether from injuries, chronic inflammation or previous surgical procedures creates impedance of “flow” through the fascia and lymphatics. The “scar” grips and spirals in, creating adhesions for the purpose of creating stability in the tissue. Wherever there is contracture, there is an equal and opposite “ballooning out" to compensate for the structural imbalance.
Gravity over time compresses the fascia, causing the body to spiral downward and inward. If people are not actively focusing on their breath (diaphragmatic breathing), posture and healthy lifestyle (diet and exercise), over time they will get shorter and wider. Their shoulders roll forward, their upper body collapses into the lower body, and they breathe more from their chest muscles than their diaphragm. The fascia begins to compress, spiraling inward and downward, gripping onto whatever it can in an attempt to continue to support the body posture and movement. The resultant adhesions hold the body out of natural alignment and further restrict the “flow” through the fascia and lymph system. A similar process happens with pets. When they experience pain, fear, or stress, it causes them to reactively hold their breath or breathe more shallowly.
Sitting for extended periods of time/lack of movement and exercise is a problem of epic importance. The lymphatics (which are housed in the fascia) do not have a pump like the heart to move lymph. The lymph system relies on movement and muscular contraction to pump the waste products. As lymph becomes stagnate, toxins build leading to inflammation and dis-ease.
Health Challenges In Pets As A Result Of Fascia Compression
Over the past 20 years, as a veterinarian, I have observed an alarming increase in degenerative disc disease in my fur patients. Radiographs document the narrowing of the vertebrae in animals as young as two years of age. This narrowing of the disc spaces is caused by the paravertebral muscles contracting in an attempt to create stability, but this also restricts “flow” and results in a lack of proper circulation to the organs and limbs. It is my belief that the dramatic increase in cruciate injuries in pets is a direct reflection on the lack of nourishment and waste removal to the joints, due to the restricted flow of energy and cellular nutrition from the spinal column.
Other Contributing Factors To Fascia Compression
Living the Standard American Day (S.A.D.), that is no longer unique to Americans, it exists worldwide, and contributes to the dysfunction of the fascia. Processed food diet, excess sugar, nutrient depletion, toxin overload, chronic stress, high sympathetic tone, sleep deprivation, poor posture (slumped in front of a computer or TV screen), shallow chest breathing (instead of diaphragmatic breathing), injuries, fear, stress and eating the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) all contribute to a growing problem. I recently traveled through Europe and processed junk food existed EVERYWHERE. The result is over time humans (and our fur babies) become structurally out of alignment. All these factors cause the fascia to “spiral down”, creating adhesions in an attempt to stabilize the body. The adhesions also block normal blood flow to the cells, resulting in decreased oxygen and nutrient flow. In addition, detoxification of the cells is also compromised.
The Goal is to live a long AND healthy life, and the key is to keep the fascia healthy and functioning so cells are in alignment and functioning at their highest potential.
The Pathway To Thriving And Longevity
1. Choose to live and behave in a way that supports health. This is truly about deciding what your lifestyle will look like, no excuses, just results. Own it!!! Your pets have no choice in the matter, they are dependent on you to make good lifestyle choices that will determine their health and longevity.
2. Feed a species appropriate diet along with the essential nutrients to your pets (and yourself). For dogs and cats, this is a balanced raw diet (meat, fat, bone and organ meat). Beware of diets that are “complete and balanced” as most have added synthetic vitamins and minerals!
3. Reduce toxin exposure in the food, water, environment, EMF and even your negative thoughts (yea, you might have some “stinkin thinkin”) that needs to be reprogrammed.
4. Move! The importance of movement (exercise, high intensity movement, dance etc.) is critically important for lymphatic and fascial health.
5. Practice diaphragmatic breathing! Deep belly breaths that push the belly out with inhalation and bring the belly in and up on exhalation. Proper diaphragmatic breathing acts like a furnace, keeping proper warmth in the abdomen.
6. Become educated. For more details on diet, lifestyle, detoxification and mitochondrial health for your fur baby, visit www.drmarlenesiegel.com or click this link for The Empowered Pet Parent Course.
Fascia Decompression - Bringing Cells Back Into Proper Alignment
1. Enroll in programs that teach how to create/ recreate space by applying pressure (with hands or blocks) to “melt” the adhesions holding the tissues out of alignment. Time and pressure increases heat, melts adhesions and improves blood flow into the area. (See links below for courses for people and pets.)
2. Inflate the space with proper diaphragmatic breathing. Proper breathing moves the diaphragm up and down and massages the abdominal organs. When we are not practicing diaphragmatic breathing, the diaphragm muscle gets weak and the weight of everything above causes us to collapse in, slump forward, leading to displacement of internal organs and tissues.
The evidence is a ballooning out belly! The muscles of the upper chest, the secondary breathing muscles, take over and do most of the breathing work. The result is shallow breathing and less than optimum oxygenation of the lungs which then leads to decreased oxygen intake for the cells. Proper diaphragmatic breathing can supply up to six times more oxygen to the body/cells. Improper breath occurs in pets as well.
In our Fascia Decompression For Your Fur Family Course you learn how to improve your pets diaphragmatic breathing.
3. Shift into parasympathetic (out of sympathetic). Pain, fear and stress cause us to reactively hold our breath. Traumatic events, repeated traumas cause us to “freeze” and keep us in a high sympathetic tone. Here are a few of my favorite activities to help shift into parasympathetic: entrain to proper frequency (PEMF), breath work, meditation, EFT (emotional freedom technique), and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Find the ones that work for you and have your pet nearby as they will entrain to the frequencies and your energy.
4. Pull the cells back from where they have migrated, back to proper alignment using awareness, diaphragmatic breathing and Block Therapy/Fluid Isometrics to release adhesions, improve breathing, improve blood and oxygen delivery, maintain the extra space and correct the tissue alignment.
5. Become educated and empowered! For details on Fascia Decompression for Pets click this link. Fascia Decompression for People to experience the Sampler Program of Block Therapy for people click this link.
2. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Feb; 22(3): 1411.Published online 2021 Jan 30. doi:10.3390/ijms22031411 PMCID: PMC7866861
Marlene Siegel, DVM
BRMI Veterinary Advisor