The Tissue System

Look At this picture.

This picture is from an article in the journal of massage science. It details the structure of the underlying system of fascia beneath the skin which stabilizes, protects and gives shape to our muscles and body structure. The fascia system is very complex and thought to spread, uninterrupted, throughout our entire body. Deep-tissue massage takes advantage of this knowledge and uses it to work out muscle and fascia adhesion’s (scar tissue) which impede flexibility, muscle elasticity, cause injury and lower a persons quality of life. Injuries are a normal cause of developing this thick scar tissue which is usually in muscles. Massage is especially important to professional athletes who rely on the sound integrity of their bodies to feed their families. Ask any truly knowledgeable massage therapist and they will tell you that this scar tissue builds up over time.

From here on out however is my own theory on how the tissue system works.

Okay so every persons body structure is determined by at least 3 things which are bones, muscles and fascia. Irregularities do not generally occur in bones as they are quite solid and unless there is a nutritional deficiency, most people will not experience problems with bone structure. Fascia and muscles however are very plastic (think of plastic as an object which fills and takes the shape of its container) and adapt to changing environmental conditions. Fascia is made from the same stuff as tendons and ligaments which means that it is very strong and can be either very stiff (ligaments) or quite elastic (Achilles tendon). In comparison to building materials, fascia could be compared to ropes because they exert a pulling force when taut and are used to stabilize body structures and prevent your muscles from tearing apart when stretched too far. When you stretch, you are actually stretching the fascia system inside the muscles to allow your muscles to extend farther. Fascia will tighten and stretch if forced into an unusual position and will adapt to that position (plastic remember?). That last sentence is important to remember, read it one more time. I want to talk about muscles briefly. Each individual muscle fiber is wrapped in connective tissue. The tendon exits bone and when it reaches muscle it branches into the muscle according to where the greatest pulling forces are. At the belly of the muscle this connective tissue has spread thin to allow the muscle fibers to do their thing without hindering movement. It is important to realize that the connective tissue is what bears the load during exertion. When someone gets a muscle tear it is the fascia that is torn and not the muscle tissue itself. When seeing things this way everything make more sense.

So with this information in mind, the tissue system is basically muscles exerting constant elastic force on the bones and keeping the fascia system taut, which will either maintain balanced posture or pull in one direction if imbalanced. The fascia system limits excessive flexibility which would damage our joints and tear our muscle fibers. With frequent exercise the fascia becomes elastic and pliable (think a professional athlete) but with disuse it becomes stiff and unyielding (elderly people). If the body is forced in an unusual position (office worker posture) the fascia will tighten and stretch, adapting in response to this new body position it must maintain. With this understanding of my body I think I can alter my physique to promote better posture, eliminate pain, reduce injuries and get better, faster.

An even shorter way to see the tissue system is as a complex system of levers (bones) attached locally by large elastic and contractible bands (muscles). The whole muscle and bone system is then globally connected and practically sheathed by the expansive layer of connective tissue which covers, supports and stabilizes everything relative to body position (fascia).

There you have it. The tissue system as I see it in a nutshell.

Now for an example, think about an office worker who spends too much time sitting down. Their spine is forced into a stooped posture, stretching the fascia on their posterior chain and tightening the fascia on their anterior chain of their bodies.

And now for a picture.

Fucking sexy I tell you.

Regardless of how much tv time this fella has at home lets suppose he had magnificent posture before he started his career in the office. He sits down letting his back and neck sag to get a better view of his computer. So in this position he is stretching the muscles and fascia covering his back entire back and leg region (Fascia covers everything, don’t forget) while his hip flexors, abdominals, neck muscles and fascia covering his anterior chain is scrunched up at the front. His body adapts to these new environmental conditions and his anterior chain tightens up while his posterior stretches.

Additionally, muscle cells can go into a chronic spasm-like state where they are constantly contracted and slow blood flow to the area. This usually only happens in small patches on muscle groups and is caused by injury or shitty posture which puts too much strain on too few muscles. This muscle tissue becomes diseased as it can no efficiently remove metabolic wastes and as a slap in the face it also hinders healthy muscle tissue surrounding it.


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