Medical writers have referred to the body’s fascial parts since the ancient Chinese and Egyptian pyramid ages (3000-2500 BCE). In the subsequent centuries, varied global concepts, definitions, and descriptions have been limited and constrained by belief systems that were and are still present in human cultures and institutions of religion and science (2022, Adstrum). Over the last 10-20 years, researchers, scientists, scholars, and clinicians have finally collaborated and formed various professional associations to help further the understanding of fascia in all its permutations (e.g. Fascia Research Society).
A primary reason for the challenge of understanding or defining fascia up until recently has been that while some ancient cultures had fully developed whole body, mind and spirit treatments based on connective tissue concepts (e.g. acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine), traditional anatomy and mainstream medicine from the 17th century until today has largely and literally discarded fascia as unimportant, irrelevant packing tissue (like plastic bubble wrap used today in shipping) that merely holds organs and other body parts in place or position. Well, imagine if your priceless vase was shipped without that bubble wrap and you begin to see the importance of fascia.
However and simultaneously, others recognized a system of tissues that we now call fascia. One occurrence was in 19th century North America, where a physician named Andrew Taylor Still became disenchanted with not being able to help many of his patients. After spending years of studying anatomy in more detail by examining skeletons and patients with new insight, he clinically tested his newly discovered findings and developed novel theories of how the body actually functioned. Finally getting superior, longer lasting results and resolution of pain and other dysfunctions without medications or surgery, Still created and started teaching a new manual medicine that he called ‘osteopathy’ or ‘osteopathic medicine’ to other physicians. His main premise was that the body was one connected system, thereby recognizing that the fascial system was the key to healing many common disorders that did not respond to traditional medical approaches (Still, 1902).
Today, there are multiple therapies with many techniques, tools and modalities that can treat fascia tissue locally, as well as the fascia system globally that addresses the entire body. FST is unique in that it uses proprietary methods to manually adjust and tune the network of fascia covering, penetrating, and connecting all systems and organs of the body.
What may be thought of as a literal connection or bridge between the structure and function of the fascial system is the co-existent state of dynamic tension that must be present throughout all fascial tissues. This state of tension is normal and necessary both at rest and during any movement. When tension is either excessive or deficient, only the experienced practitioner, well-educated and trained in fascia, will be able to properly identify and treat fascial dysfunctions to resolve pain or other problems a person is having that affect quality of life or performance that is required for any task.
The fascial system can be looked at as being like the living hardware and software of the body. It is the brain outside the literal brain that interprets, synchronizes, and expresses whole body communication and intelligence. This intelligence is embedded with sensors within the viscoelastic tensional network of the fascial system. One example of sensor types are free nerve endings which, besides having a dual role as nociceptors that detect pain, also serve to inform the body and brain where it is in space whether at rest or when moving (Schleip, 2022). Fundamental to survival and learning skills to thrive in life are only a few of the many crucial functions fascia provides.
As the entire fascial system is also considered a tensional network, any movement, however trivial, is detected, interpreted, and constantly monitored to determine what action if any must occur. All this happens instantaneously outside of the brain and nervous system and at the sub-conscious level through a process called mechanotransduction. That is, any change in tension transmitted and received within the network of fascia will be interpreted and an appropriate response made in return. When any stimulus detected in the network of fascia consciously arises in the cortex of the brain for further interpretation, a thought will further refine whether appropriate action will be taken.
The FST Practitioner utilizes a unique, proprietary brand of manual stretching, compression, and oscillation to modulate the tension of fascial tissues where indicated. That is, when excessive, FST reduces tension and, when deficient, FST increases tension. Objective measurements like ROM (range of motion) full body functional movements, strength, balance, speed, power, HRV (heart rate variability), BP (blood pressure), tissue specific frequency and pain scores among other tests have all been shown to improve, often dramatically, after a FST session. Improvements in sleep, digestion, mood, mental alertness and function, attitude, and other factors have been attributed to FST by clients and patients.
Recognizing the crucial role that the fascial system plays in the human body, mind, emotions, and spirit, Fascia Stretch Therapy specializes in evaluating and assessing the individual before treating the person with assisted stretching alone or combined with other techniques and modalities. Unlike standardized, cookie-cutter approaches utilizing the same number and type of stretches for all clients, FST is personalized such that each person is analyzed and treated specific to their needs and goals (Frederick, 2017)
Adstrum, S., 2022. Evolution of fascia-focused anatomy. In: Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body, second ed. Elsevier.
Frederick, A., Frederick, C., 2017. Fascial Stretch Therapy, second ed. Handspring Publishing Ltd.
Schleip, R., 2022. Fascia as an Organ of Communication. In: Fascia: The Tensional Network of the Human Body, second ed. Elsevier.
Still, A.T., 1902. Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy. Hudson-Kimberly Pub. Co. Kansas City, MO