Dysfunctional Fascia and the Ageing Equation

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Dysfunctional Fascia –

In order to understand what would be considered dysfunctional fascia, it is first important to understand what its proper function is. In this research document they talk about three different definitions of what Fascia is, “https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493232/”. It is easy to see that there is a lot of discourse as to what Fascia is and what its function is.

One thing is consistent throughout all that I have read, Fascia is a contiguous system found throughout the whole body even to the cells themselves. In layman terms, if you removed everything from the body, skin, bones, circulation, etc., you would look just like you only a fascia you.

It doesn’t stop there though; researchers have gone one step further. As Fascia research and its clinical application continues another thought has presented itself. There is the Fascial Tissue as defined above, but there is also the Fascial System. In a nutshell the Fascial System is all about communication between all the tissues, organs, and systems of the body through the Fascial matrix. You can see in this research article that the Fascial System is responsible for monitoring, responding, and changing the body and its tissue as required to mechanical stimuli and signaling. “https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6281443/

Functional Fascia Tissue– Fascia surrounds and interpenetrates all the tissues, organs and cells of the body, allowing for separation and encapsulation, and glide as required.

Functional Fascial System – Constant monitoring of the body’s behaviours, communication between cells, tissue, organs, and body systems, and tissue response to body challenges and dysfunctions. Based on mechanical stimuli working on the body.

Now that we understand what Functional Fascial tissue is, we can better understand what dysfunctional Fascia would look and behave like.

Dysfunctional Fascia Tissue– Fascia surrounding the tissues and cells of the body are not creating proper separation or encapsulating disparate tissues and systems properly. This leads to the actions of different systems, for example muscles, creating undue stress and pressure on each other as they try to function. In addition, dysfunctional fascia does not allow for proper glide between tissues and systems, again creating undue stress and weakness on each other as they attempt to pull in different directions.

Dysfunctional Fascial System – When there are blocks in the Fascial system proper monitoring of disparate tissue, organs, and cells, is not possible, and this can cause improper response to mechanical stimuli. In addition, if proper communication signals are not possible in the system, response to further dysfunction or required changes may not be able to occur.

The Ageing Equation -

Now that we have talked a little about what dysfunctional Fascia is, lets look at what it has to do with Ageing.

What are some of the key things that happen to our body as we age?

- Metabolism Slows Down

- Joint Problems

- Muscles Degrade

- High Blood Pressure

- Height Loss

- Posture Problems

- Hair Loss

These are just some of the issues that we face as we age. I am going to take them one-by-one and look at the connection dysfunctional Fascia could be playing in their creation.

Metabolism Slows Down – This means that it is more and more difficult for our bodies to process the food that we ingest. We aren’t capable of breaking down the food in a way that provides energy and building blocks like we need. When this occurs, we are more likely to store greater levels of body fat.

Fascial Connection – Dysfunctional Fascial tissue around the abdomen from years of improper posture, digestion issues, or some related reasoning, means that the organs and tissues of the abdomen, where our digestion occurs, may not be able to function properly. For example, if the fascia surrounding the intestines is in a dysfunctional state, than they could be stuck to the stomach wall or another organ in the abdomen.

This would mean that our bodies can’t function the way they are supposed to. This behaviour would be directly connected to a reduced metabolic action. As metabolism slows down it becomes easier to store fats. We have greater levels of undigested food sitting in our system, slowly rotting and giving off dangerous waste products. These products are then stored in fat cells and encapsulated by the Fascial tissue to keep us safe.

Joint Problems – There are many different types of joint problems, but lets refine our discussion to painful joints.

Fascial Connection – Body movement done improperly or in a reactive manner to some injury, can have a negative affect on the Fascia. Let’s look at a knee. First it is important to understand that muscles act to support joints during movement. Imagine it this way your joints are floating in a muscular support system. The actions of push and pull of the muscles create the motion. For example, if you were to examine most serious bike riders, you will find an issue with their knees. The reason for this, is a lack of balance of pull on the knee joint during the pedal action. The knee is supported by several muscles working in unison, the Vastus Medialis on the inside of the front part of the leg and the Vastus Lateralis on the outside of the front part of the leg. The muscles of the back of the knee and so on.

In a perfect world these muscles work together to stabilize the knee and create the motions known as bending and extension of the knee. The problem occurs when we don’t use these muscles properly in balance. If the lateral front leg muscle the Vastus lateralis is working harder than the inside muscle the Vastus Medialis, it creates undue stress on the knee and eventually the joint will begin to wear down. In order to compensate for this, the Fascia around the knee and around the inner leg muscle will change and start to thicken and resist the lateral pull. This tug of war eventually will wear down the knee and the result is pain. This is something that is observed in bike riders a lot, because they never really straighten their leg and are only using the vastus lateralis. To combat this riders need to not only push their pedal away from them, but pull it back towards them as well.

This knee problem occurs with ageing a lot because of our repetition of poor muscular engagement as we walk.

Muscles Degrade – As we age our muscles tend to shrink and lose their flexibility. This can be directly connected to poor muscular use over a lifetime.

Fascial Connection – As I pointed out earlier if we are not using our muscles properly to create mobility, then Fascia will step in to help us out. The problem occurs in that Fascia is plastic in nature once it is changed to a certain function it needs to signalled to change back, even if we try to reverse our bad behaviour. If we were to examine the muscles in the front of the arm it is easy to see how dysfunctional fascia could strangle the muscles and cause them to shrink over time.

If we don’t use our muscles properly to create flexion at the elbow Fascia will change to help us create the motion, we want. For example, if you were to go to a gym and watch a lot of different people lifting weights with their arms, “biceps curls”, you will often observe that they are pulling with many different parts of their bodies to lift a weight that is far too heavy for them. This is a problem because they are not ensuring that their elbow is not under undue stress and is sitting in the spot it needs to for proper flexion to occur. If this behavior continues for a long period of time, Fascia will change to support the elbow joint and resist the stabilizing pull from the rest of the body.

In ageing this behavior can lead to muscular strangulation as the fascia thickens and surrounds the muscle beneath, that is no longer doing its job. This results in stringy looking muscle.

High Blood Pressure – This is a common problem for people as they age. It is an ongoing battle for a lot of us to try and control our rising blood pressure. What is interesting is the role Fascia may be playing in this battle.

Fascial Connection – Dysfunctional Fascial tissue throughout different areas of the body can negatively affect the circulatory system. Fascia is a total body system found around, through, and connecting, the cells, the tissues, the organs, and the systems of the body. If the Fascial tissue is dysfunctional it can change to thicken and strangle tissue, organs, and even systems trapped within it. This could have very serious impact on the circulation through the blood vessels of the body. This would mean that the heart would be forced to work harder to pump the blood around the body and result in higher blood pressure.

Height Loss – One of the strangest side effects of ageing is the loss of height. People literally seem to shrink. Fascia has a role to play here too.

Fascial Connection – In a lifetime we are constantly battling the forces of gravity. These forces are always to trying to pull us down and put pressure on the joints of our bodies to compress and shrink. This is particularly true on the vertebrate of the spine. Our muscles are capable of resisting this force and keeping us upright and our joint spaces intact. Unfortunately, the average individual is unaware of the musculature involved in maintaining a proper and open posture and allow for these compressive forces to slow shrink them down to size. The space between each vertebral segment gets compressed and little by little we lose our height and the battle against gravity.

If the musculature is not doing its jobs of maintaining our posture and stabilizing our bodies, the Fascia will step in and help us as we need. The unfortunate part is the Fascia is unaware of proper function of the area and once in place is unwilling to let go unless we can signal it that it is in dysfunctional state and is no longer required.

Posture Problems – It is easy to spot an older individual, even from some distance off, their posture is a dead give away. Years of improper movement patterns, sitting, slouching, etc., are reflected in the bodies posture.

Fascial Connection – If we sit a desk all day long with heads bent forward, the fascial tissue will work to help support our head in this awkward position. Our musculature is not designed to hold that position for long. For example, someone who just starts working at a desk will often suffer from upper back pain and headaches when they first start their job. At first it will seem so tiring and impossible to do, then the body compensates, and the fascia begins to hold your head up. The job is easier, you don’t have the same tiredness or pains. That is at first, as the behaviour continues, and your head sinks further forward, this position starts to affect normal circulation and muscle function. Now the pain is worse as the Fascia again tries to warn you of the dangers of this posture. What is even worse is the Fascia tissue that initially helped you do your job, now resists you trying to sit up straight.

It is easy to see in this image how an improper posture can result from poor body mechanics. Once Fascia has set in place to maintain this posture that you are asking for getting out of this posture may feel impossible.

Hair Loss – There are tons of articles and research documents looking at hair loss and ageing. A woman over 50, increases her risk of significant hair loss by 50%, a man of the same age has a risk of 80% for significant hair loss. Is it all genetics, Fascia has an explanation that may unlock the secret to hair loss?

Fascial Connection – Every hair follicle has a nerve connection and a circulatory connection. This means that in order for a hair follicle to survive it needs nerve signal and blood flow. The average individual suffers from a head forward posture, this is especially prevalent in today’s society of computers and cell phones. This posture reinforced afters years of behaviour can affect the circulation and nerve conduction to the hair follicles. In fact, after years of study in a clinical environment, I have noticed a trend in hair loss from ageing, the zone over the middle of the scalp seems to be the main affected zone. The area most involved in creating a resistance to the head forward posture model.

The Wrap Up –

Fascial dysfunction can negatively cellular growth and behaviour as we age. Leading to what may seem an inevitable decline in our golden years. This doesn’t have to be the case though, even though the Fascia is plastic in nature with the proper intervention and guidance our bodies can be reset to a healthy and functional nature.

One last thing, keep in mind that Fascia is never trying to hurt us. It is a wonderful slave, it will follow any order you give it, whether it is on purpose or through negative behaviours that we are unaware of. It will work tirelessly to support our every need, even if those needs are ultimately bad for us. Fascia doesn’t do anything to us, it does everything for us!

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