(image obtained from galwaybayphysio.com)
by chartered physiotherapist David Gow.
Myo is Greek for muscle. Fascia comes from the Latin for band. The fascial network is essentially a
giant sheet of uninterrupted dense fibrous connective tissue that appears much like a spider’s web
that permeates the entire body. The first ever fascia research congress was only held in 2007,
therefore fascia was largely ignored in the syllabus when I started studying physiotherapy back in
2008. The world’s biomechanical view of the body was simplistic and saw muscles as levers that pull
on bones, failing to see the body as an inter-connected system.
What is fascia?
Fascia is made up of collagen, giving the body its strength; elastin allowing it to stretch up to 150%
of its original length and ground substance giving shock absorbing capabilities and binding it all
together, acting as a transport medium for the circulatory, lymphatic and immune systems.
Fascia is made up of 4 layers that starts directly under the skin and extends all the way through
muscles and organs until the bones, without this system we would not be able to achieve the basic
functions of sitting, walking and standing.
As the myofascia covers every muscle fibre it ultimately determines the length and functioning
capability of the muscle.
How does it work?
Research shows that the fascia operates using a biotensegrity model, which is when a structure is
supported by the balance between compressive and tensile forces. Due to this interconnectedness,
the entire myofascial system is affected no matter where the forces of movement are exerted. This
is highly effective for healthy myofascial tissue but also demonstrates how continued loading or
weaknesses may affect the integrity of the entire structure.
There are physical and psychological factors which may impact the natural healthy state of fascia:
• Fatigue and exhaustion
• Imbalances in the endocrine system
• Habitual posture
• Scarring and inflammation
• Emotional trauma
• Unhealthy emotional thoughts and holding patterns (stress, fear, anxiety, lack of self worth),
• Dehydration and nutritional deficiencies/excesses.
These upset the autonomic balance of the nervous system allowing the fight or flight response to
dominate the body’s functioning.
Ongoing stress for long periods of time may cause unhealthy oxidative changes to the soft tissue
which can lead to chronic pain syndromes (Fascia has up to 6-10 times more nerve fibres than
• Myofascial pain syndrome
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Headaches & migraines
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
What can you do to improve your own myofascial system at home?
• Stretching for longer than the usual 30 seconds, starting with 3 sets of 90 to 120 second
holds. This helps to relax the muscles and allows you to access the deeper tissues of the
• Breathe deeply using the belly as opposed to the upper chest. Slow your breath down to 6
seconds (both the inhalation and exhalation) during stretching helps to relax the nervous
system and body. If this challenges you, start with 3 seconds inhalation and exhalation then
increase over time.
• Set reminders to improve your posture during activities of daily living and make sure that
you do not do too much of one activity: sitting, lying, running, cycling.
• Restorative yoga and Pilates are also great tools for improving our myofascial system.
Books of interest:
Anatomy trains by Tom Meyers.
Fascial Release for Structural Balance by Tom Meyers.
Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert.
Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton.