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Fascia Superficialis…new research on the importance of fascial planes in functional movement

February 2, 2012

Special thanks to Aaron Pereira, F.R. certified practitioner, for bringing the work of  Dr. Ahn to my attention.

As I have commonly discussed in the past, therapists must both assess, and address abberant movement between the various fascial planes in order to restore normal functional ability.  As such, the Functional Range Release soft tissue management system seperates said planes into two general categories (note that these categories are only conceptual for the purposes of manual assessment and treatment application…in the living body, the interconnectivity of the planes does not afford such distinctions).  We utilizes specific techniques of assessment, and treatment to address the loss of relative motion between the fascia superficialis over the underlying profunda – termed ‘Inter-Layer sliding’ techniques; as well as between layers within the level of profunda – termed ‘Intra-Layer sliding.’  A greater explaination of this concept is discussed on this prior blog post:

Fascia — The new target for soft tissue techique application:  Part 2 – Understanding Fascial Planes

The development of techniques directed at the Fascia Superficialis in the F.R.™ system was based on various streams of histological research.  For example the work of  Kawamata, et al (2003)*, who noted that the extensive mobility of this superficial tissue allows the relatively independent movement of the skin and the muscles which is important for normal muscle functions and unrestrained joint movements.  They also note that damage to the subcutaneous connective tissue can lead to adhesion between it and underlying tissue, which may deteriorate muscle function and hinder joint motion.  Thus, is would appear to be clinically important for the manual therapist to both assess and restore normal Inter-Layer Sliding.

Now more recent research is corroborating these previous concepts.  On September of 2011, Li & Ahn published this article on the PLoS ONE online journal discussing subcutaneous fascial bands (Fascia Superficialis):

Subcutaneous Fascial Bands:  A Qualitative and Morphometric Analysis (Vol 6, issue 9)

In their study, which can be read by clicking on the link above, they conclude that Fascial bands are structural bridges that mechanically link the skin, subcutaneous layer, and deeper muscle layers.  Further that the quantity and morphological characteristics of the subcutaneous fascial band (Fascia Superficialis) may reflect the composite mechanical forces experienced by the body part.

I highly recommend this article to all certified F.R. practitioners as it provides yet more research speaking to the importance of restoring relative movement between fascial layers.


*Kawamata, S., Ozawa, J., Hashimoto, M., Kurose, T., and Shinohara, H. 2003.  Structure of the rat subcutaneous connective tissue in relation to its sliding mechanism.  Archives of Histology & Cytology; 66(3):273-279.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Private permalink
    February 4, 2012 4:35 am

    How is this “NEW”? CMT’s have ALWAYS known and understood that it’s all about the fascia!

    • February 6, 2012 7:03 pm

      There are several obvious problems with this question…I will not attempt to answer all of them, however I feel compelled to at least address some of the more prevalent problems.

      First off, there are two main reasons behind the claim that this is ‘NEW.’ First off, the more obvious one, is the fact that the date of publication is very recent. But more importantly, it reveals things the fascia superficialis is that were not known to ANYONE before its publication…this makes me question weather or not you actually read the article btw.

      The second problem is with your second point. I have taught manual therapists all over the world in the topics of soft tissue assessment, treatment, and mechanics. Specifically, my focus has been on the topic of connective tissue and fascia. I assure you…all CMT’s (nor DC’s, nor PT’s, nor Osteopaths, etc.) have understood that it is “all about fascia,” and those who always BELIEVED they were treating fascia in actuality were not. This is because of the more recent surge of research on the topic which is only BEGINNING to help us explain how this tissue responds to loading by manual means. If you were somehow granted this information in advance…than you stand alone in your ability to overcome the space/time barrier. Just knowing the word ‘fascia,’ does not imply complete understanding of it….nor does the assumption that you feel it “all about the fascia” make you any more knowledgeable in the topic.

      thank goodness for research.

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