In the previous article, we discussed the fascial mechanoreceptors – what they respond to and their influence on the body. Moving forward, we’ll briefly explore the interplay between the fascial network and the autonomic nervous system (ANS), as well as the role fascial fluid plays in tissue dynamics and responses, and how all of this affects our motion and health.
Fascia and the Autonomic Nervous System
The fascial mechanoreceptors have also been shown to have an intimate connection with the ANS. More specifically, it appears that the Interstitial receptors and, to a lesser extent, the Ruffini receptors may be the primary communicators between the fascial network and the ANS.
The use of a slow rhythmical and/or sustained ‘pressure’ (ischemic compression) techniques may evoke a parasympathetic response, or a more relaxing effect, on the body’s tissues, as well as the mind, and even emotional state. On the other hand, more rapid variable manipulation to the tissue may induce a more sympathetic response, or excitatory affect.
It’s important to note that neither one is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Rather it is dependent on the desired response the practitioner is looking to achieve with the person he / she is assisting. This mandates, all the more, the importance of understanding the physical, mental, and emotional state of the athlete, client, or patient.
Using this information, SOMA has practically incorporated different techniques for the 4 main SOMA applications to properly ENGAGE each person and their tissues according to their needs for each session. To more accurately LISTEN to our athletes, clients, or patients, so that they may be correctly engaged, the SOMA PReP™ Scale was developed (shown below).
The PReP™ Scale, similar to the PTA Global Daily Readiness Observation (DR.O) found in the Exercise & Stress Management course, allows SOMA practitioners to ascertain the level or degree of a person’s stress coming into each session. This further helps in determining a) the state of the person’s tissue and mindset, and b) the appropriate programming strategy needed for the session.
Along the lines of the ANS, the fascial mechanoreceptors have also been shown to be vital in communicating within the endocrine system. For example, many of the sensory neurons of the enteric nervous system (or what is better know as the “gut brain”) are actually mechanoreceptors. When engaged, these receptors can trigger important neuroendocrine changes. One such change is in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is an important chemical neurotransmitter throughout the body and brain that may affect mood, sleep, memory, digestion, and may also be correlated to depression.
Fascia and Fluid Dynamics of Tissue
The fascial mechanoreceptors also have influence on tissue fluid dynamics. Both Interstitial and Ruffini receptors have the capacity to alter pressure in fascial arterioles and capillaries. They are also capable of pushing fluid from the vessels into the extracellular matrix, which can alter the viscosity (stickiness) to a more favorable state.
Much like a sponge, the fascial matrix is filled with fluid. In fact about two-thirds of the volume of fascial tissue is due to water. During movement or pressure, as found in SOMA applications, a significant amount of water can pushed out. Think of this like squeezing water out of a sponge. Then when the pressure is released, this area refills with new fluid that comes from surrounding tissue as well as the local vascular network.
This sponge-like tissue can lack adequate hydration in various regions for many reasons. Prolonged sitting can dehydrate the region pressed against the chair. Repetitive or prolonged muscle contraction can dehydrate the contracting tissue as well. Whether from ‘working out’ or from prolonged tension in the shoulders and neck region during times of stress.
Practitioners, authors, and researchers such Leon Chaitow, Robert Schleip, Thomas Myers, and others have shown that the application of external loading to fascial tissues such as those found in SOMA can help in the removal, rehydration, and circulation of tissue fluid.
The extracellular matrix of healthy fascia is said to be made up of a large percentage of ‘bound’ or ‘structured’ water. Think of bound water as water with a behavior that can be characterized as that of liquid crystal. In this bound state, water is intimate with protein and other important substances within the extracellular and cellular spaces. This forms a healthy and functionally mobile gel-like substance that lubricates tissue for better communication and motion. It’s the motion lotion!
On the other hand, ‘bulk’ water is not structured nor intimately interactive with the components of the cell. This means it lacks a healthy effect and impact on the cellular and extracellular matrix. In fact, it has been proposed that many pathologies such as inflammatory conditions, edemae, or the increased accumulation of free radicals and other waste products tends to go along with a shift towards a higher percentage of bulk water within the extracellular matrix.
It has recently been suggested that when fascial tissue gets ‘squeezed’ like a sponge ome of the bulk water gets pushed out. Subsequently, when rehydrated, the tissue may then be replaced by bound water molecules. This would lead to creating a healthier water-gel composition within the ground substance and is one reason SOMA applications have a profound affect on the tissues of the body.
Fascia, Motion, and Health
Collectively, all this information tells us that fascia is highly involved in the monitoring of, responding to, and participating in all of our motion. In fact, the architectural make up of the fascial network is determined predominantly by the tensional strain the tissues experience as a result of the forces placed upon the body.
It’s appropriate to say that motion – force – is critical to the health, efficiency, and effectiveness of not only the fascial matrix, but the entire person. It lubricates and strengthens all tissues by decreasing their viscosity and increasing resiliency. Conversely, a lack of motion increases tissue viscosity and thereby decreasing it’s lubricant effect. This allows tissue to become ‘sticky’ and restricted. Over time, this can become an adhesion that is capable of disrupting the seamless transmission of force throughout the body.
‘Sticky’ and restricted tissue can occur both in the muscular, neuro-myofascia, and boney, osteofascial regions of the body. Each can have a detrimental effect on the movement, health, and wellbeing of the person as a whole. Restriction in the soft myofascia can hinder muscle force production as well as circulation of both blood and lymph fluid. Restriction in the hard osteofascia can hinder the transmission of forces between segments as well as the throughout the body as a whole.
The human body thrives and craves motion. The collective intimacy with, and of, the body’s tissues provides the environment for movement to manifest reflexively and at will. These tissues are laced with numerous receiving and transmitting substances and organisms to allow endless motions to occur.
Countless neurological receptors are constantly shuttling messages to and from the nervous systems, tissues, and organs. Water is by far the most predominant molecule in the body, with proteins, nucleic acids, and a myriad of other substances that all intermingle to provide the proper ‘lotion for motion’.
However, these tissues and their constituent elements and functions are susceptible to degradation from any number of causes. This necessitates the need for tissue maintenance. SOMA was developed to practically and simplistically help the practitioner in doing just that. SOMA is Regenerative Health solution designed to LISTEN and ENGAGE the tissues of the body.
The tissues of the body are inundated with fascial mechanoreceptors and this allows them to respond to multiple forms of mechanical stimuli. Each force, pressure, or stress placed upon the tissues can illicit a unique response. From this premise, SOMA derives its significance and holistic practicality. It’s about providing different applications for different responses in different people at different times.