On March 6, 2018, a study by Benias, et al., was published in Scientific Reports claiming that a new organ may have been discovered. The team concluded that the subcutaneous structure of the human body that has been overlooked (almost all medical personnel who took a cadaver dissection lab were taught to “cut through that white stuff”) for many years is, in fact, a “fluid-filled interstitial space”, which may be considered a new organ. That fluid-filled interstitium is fascia.
I’m not going to lie, I do have mixed emotions about this discovery. While I agree that it is virtually impossible to study a fluid-filled interstitium in a cadaver, and that it would take advances in diagnostic imagining and microscopy in order to see the fascia, there have been many who have been studying and lecturing fascia for years before the technology in the study existed. John Barnes, a physical therapist, has been teaching about fascia, fascial restrictions, and myofascial release since the 1970s; Dr. Jean-Claude Guimnerteau, a world renowned plastic surgeon published a video of live fascia, named “Strolling Under the Skin”, in 2005. I took my first myofascial release-related course with Dr. Carol Davis, well into her fascial career in August 2013, where she lectured extensively about the liquid-crystalline nature of fascia and how fascia and the interstitium is “collagen and elastin embedded within a type II ground substance”. The aforementioned are just a few of the MANY brilliant minds who have been learning and teaching about fascia and its implications on the body. Since I first became interested in fascia, I have only ever learned that fascia is a body-wide system that envelops all aspects of the body and is a continuous viscous system; that the “liquid jell-O” like nature of fascia crystalizes due to traumas or injuries, but can be rehydrated with a compressive/friction force; that cell communication via quantum vibration occurs via the fascia. In the end, I am so very excited that fascia is finally a topic of discussion amongst the medical community and is even being considered to be an organ by some.
For years, those who have studied and worked with fascia have tirelessly tried to explain how it can pull a body out of alignment and keep a person in PT on and off for years until it is released, can restrict GI movements, and even be the reason for tumors… but only on the research and few studies that existed at the time. Most of these pioneers were thought to be a little crazy and/or clueless. Regardless of how long it took, it is wonderful that this tissue we have been borderline obsessed with for years finally has some attention. I truly believe that this discovery will revolutionize how the medical community looks at patients and how patients will be treated going forward.
While the study by Benias, et al., was somewhat restrictive in what it was looking at, in that it only studied tissue in the bile and pancreatic duct regions, the researchers alluded to that fact that fascia may be the reason for GI and other organ issues, structural “shock absorbers” via the collagen lattice, and even be responsible for metastatic cancers. Now that there is a way to study this tricky tissue, I can only imagine the research and advances that will come out of it.
-Alix Terpos, PT, DPT
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