Beverly Gordon, DC and Jeff Moore, BS, ESMT, CEKT, CETP
When we seek the cause of our horses’ lameness, we commonly think “muscle, joint, bone” and “infection, arthritis, trauma.” Seldom comes to mind one of the most important structures in the body, which has a direct effect on performance and movement. It is one of the largest organs in the body, and it connects every single cell in the body and becomes tendons and ligaments. It carries most of the body’s proprioceptive nerve sensors, which tell the brain where the body is in time and space, and it plays an important role in coordination and movement, and determines both form and function. It stabilizes not only muscles and joints, but also organs. Its important role in determining the quality of not only movement, but also overall health cannot be overstated. This very important, yet commonly overlooked, misunderstood, and underrated structure is fascia.
WHAT IS FASCIA AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
First understand that fascia exists as one continuous structure throughout the body, therefore affecting one part of the body’s fascial system will naturally affect other parts as well. Fascia acts to separate, while connecting, tissue layers and organs (think of a continuous sheet of plastic wrap). As such, fascia is referred to as “connective tissue.”
Important Facts About Fascia:
1. Fascia acts as the body’s glue to hold everything together as it allows tissue to slide, stretch, and contract smoothly. The quality of the fascial tissue is directly related to the quality of movement. Fascia is the body’s organ of form. Fascia determines what shape the body takes (think about posture) and how it moves in space (think about range of motion).
2. Most fascia tissue is contractile and elastic; it actively contracts (and therefore relaxes) and plays and important role in coordination and movement. Contracted, tight, immobile fascia is a common underlying component found in horses with overall body soreness and tightness.
3. Damaged fascial tissue has less resiliency and lubricating qualities, interferes with the gliding motion the muscles need to function, and results in microtears of the tissue.
4. Damaged fascial tissue causes local inflammation, less tissue mobility, pain, and decreased function.
5. Fascial tissue supports the necessary rebound/elastic effect on working muscles that aids in decreasing muscle fatigue and injury.
Damaged or inflamed fascial tissue loses its elasticity and its necessary lubricating effect on muscles and other structures, thereby causing altered, restricted, or painful movement resulting in lameness.
You can manipulate fascia manually. Fascia wraps around the muscle fiber and also around the billions of nerves that travel within the soft tissue system.