At the First Fascia Research Congress that we attended at Harvard Medical School in 2007, it was heard that for hundreds of years up until today, fascia was discarded as an annoying wrapping and binding substance that got in the way of anatomy dissectors. To be clear – ‘fascia’ was the generic term used by the organizers of that congress to represent all connective tissue (from tissue to cell) that is not bone or blood.
For medical and other students and gross anatomists, fascia was thrown into buckets and bags, so “important structures that mattered” like organs, muscles, bones and such may be identified and studied. The ‘white stuff’ of fascia prevented what they wanted to visualize and palpate, so therefore, had to leave. Today, the world of fascia research has turned our perceptions of body form and function, structure and physiology upside down. Fascia has become the new darling of science such that novel discoveries are surfacing at a rapid pace, paralleling the same kind of exploding growth now seen in neuroscience and brain research.
For example, it has been shown that only 20% of our proprioceptors are in the form of myelinated nerve endings found in muscle and joints. The other 80% is found in free nerve endings, some known as ‘interstitial muscle receptors’, found in the fascia of muscles and in multiple layers of all connective tissue. 90% of those free nerve endings follow a different pathway than muscle and joint proprioceptors and end up in the insula cortex, not the sensorimotor cortex where the 20% connect. This has huge implications for manual therapy and movement re-education.