When the ground substance contains an overabundance of collagen fibers that have cross-bound and coiled in on themselves, the fascia is less able to adapt and the fascial network becomes inelastic and does not expand readily. So when fluid is retained (edema), pressure mounts inside the tissue, and when the pressure becomes too great the nerves react by conducting pain signals to the central nervous system.
The causes of abnormal fascia include:
When fascia is immobile it becomes dehydrated. This allows the collagen fibers to become closer together and so cross-binding occurs. When the fascia is not stretched sufficiently, the collagen fibers tend to coil in on themselves and shorten. The result of this is that the fascia progressively contracts, painfully compressing its contents.
Repetitive work load
When a muscle is subjected to work overload, the fibroblasts in the muscle fascia form more collagen fibers. If the overload continues a situation similar to the one above occurs, with increasing cross-linked collagen fibers and decreasing water. Eventually increasing myofascial pressure mounts to a point where circulation is impeded and pain results.
Inflammation and wound healing
Fascial tissue heals partly through an accumulation of collagen fibers, being laid down in the ground substance, in a relatively erratic pattern. The collagen fibers form cross-links and then shorten by coiling, this gradually pulls the tissues together. This stabilizes the tissue forming scar tissue, which is less elastic than normal fascial tissue, and therefore is more likely to be painful if fluid accumulates in the tissue spaces.
Fifty odd years ago, Hans Selye, the father of stress theory, studied the effects of stress on the human organism. He found that when the body experiences a stressor, the "fight or flight" response is initiated. The body in responding to stress, undergoes certain complex physiological changes that will allow it to either fight or flee from the stressor.
When some of Dr. Selye's patients responded repeatedly to the fight or flight response, he saw something he called calciphylaxis occurring in their tissues, including the fascial tissues. He defined calciphylaxis as "an induced hypersensitivity in which tissues respond to various challenging agents with sudden calcification" (Selye 1975 ). It didn't matter what type of stressor it was, ( chronic illness, repeated physical injury, severe emotional trauma); repeated experience of the fight or flight response caused tissue change.
Treatment of Abnormal Fascia
Once fascia has thickened it sometimes needs help to return to its previous form. This is where bodywork may be particularly helpful. Manual therapies such as massage, and systematic stretching can, in many cases restore such fascia to its normal or almost normal elasticity.
Note that the majority of connective tissue consists of fluids and fibers. Because of this it is not uncommon for bodywork to cause nausea or headaches from the large amounts of toxins and wastes that are moved out of the intercellular fluids and into the blood stream. this is necessary for the body to rid itself of toxins and wastes. (Juhan 1987)
Travell and Simons also found that the medication "Potoba" helped loosen tight myofascia. Potoba is a trade name for vitamin B7, Biotin - aminobenzoate potassium. This is a member of the B-vitamin complex. It can be used to diminish fibrotic tissue in stubborn cases of myofascial pain.
Tags: Health Medical Pharma, Tissue (biology), Ground substance, induced hypersensitivity, fight or flight
Incoming search terms:
About Gary Clark
Gary Clark is a massage therapist and EFT practitioner in Perth, Western Australia. Gary founded Pain Busters Clinic in 2002, where he helps people with a variety of pain problems, including fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome.