What is Fascia?

August 21st, 2013 Written by Ashley Black

 

The F Bomb!

How could we miss an entire system of the body that affects virtually every living creature – including HUMANS?

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How can we still be calling it a “hernia” when hernias are really torn FASCIA, “cellulite” is really tight, mangled FASCIA, “fibromyalgia” is really full body FASCIAL RECOIL, and “saddle bags” are really fat trapped in FASCIA?

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Why are we still SO uninformed, even with billions of dollars of research and profit designated to FASCIA associated diagnoses and beauty issues?

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Why has no one, on a mass scale, blown the lid off this thing and connected the dots between FASCIA and all the other fields of science?

 

I’ve been scratching my head over this for more than a decade. I tried to share the knowledge and understanding of FASCIA with Academia so it could spread throughout our culture … WRONG! After years of beating my head against that wall, I concluded the Academia route would take longer than my lifetime (if even – and I’m only 44). To be quite frank, my experience with Academia is that they just aren’t that interested. So I decided that I would make it my personal responsibility and life’s work to bring this information to as many people as I could, as fast as I could, with as many solutions as I could.

 

What I found out is that the people who are STARVING for this information are not just the practitioners and medical professionals (although I have met amazing practitioners all over the world), but YOU – the consumer! The everyday person with hernias, cellulite, fibromyalgia or saddle bags! And those are 4 microcosms of a much bigger picture which I hope you will see by the end of this blog.

 

Hundreds and hundreds of pain, beauty, and health issues humans face stem from FASCIA! FASCIA is so significant that it cannot be removed from any human condition. So without further ado, here is a quick glance into the world of FASCIA and my take on it. I hope you will have many “AHA” moments, and if you have never heard this information, it can be a bit mind blowing!

 

Before I even get started, let me stress that this is by no means a comprehensive look at fascia. This isn’t even the Cliffs Notes. This is a snap shot – a glimpse of the tip of the iceberg. I’m directing this information to the everyday person to enlighten you on some pretty complex science and ideas. I’m going to include tons of links to videos and other resources, so feel free to click around and jump into the Ashley Black Guru rabbit hole!

 

My first point has to be that, #1 FASCIA EXISTS. I am often asked if fascia is part of my brand name (as if it’s a made-up term). NO! Fascia has been acknowledged and studied for centuries, but it was never given the scientific relevance that it deserves on a mass scale. And before you “fascia people” jump on me, just know that less than 3% of the world’s population has even heard the word FASCIA! So yes, it’s important to state its existence.

 

fascia - fasciablaster - ashley black guru

Fascia Magnified

Fascia has been studied for at least 500 years – from Da Vinci’s earliest anatomical studies to Aristotle’s work which approached the body synergistically, to the more recent studies of Meyers, Barnes, and Rolf. My study of fascia is a continuation of the research movement they began. I believe I’ve taken the next step in continuing and expanding on the knowledge, treatment, and research of fascia, and I have dedicated my life’s purpose to impart this information to the world.

 

Simply put, fascia is the body’s connective tissue. It is a head to toe, inside to out, all-encompassing and interwoven system of the body. Our very first cells of life are fascia and we literally grow within our fascial structure, like a butterfly inside a cocoon. Even though fascia is, in fact, connective tissue, I hesitate to even refer to it as such, because it really is so much more!

 

 

The fascia is its own system! It has its own fluid flowing through it, it has the ability to changes states and structure, and the latest research shows that the fascia is a communication system that communicates 3x faster than the nervous system! Are you getting the picture of how important this is? For all the nerds and practitioners who are wondering about the science or evidence supporting my claims, here is some background on fascia.

 

As I studied the existing research on fascia, I didn’t agree with the way the basic “rules of fascia” and the different types of fascia were presented. The explanation of how it all works together just didn’t do the subject justice, so I decided to write my own version that made more sense. I’ve heard all about the “inner bag and outer bag”, the Anatomy Trains fascia lines, and the long holds of the Barnes technique, and I have found them all to be very insightful and have serious relevance, and I have MAD RESPECT for every fascia pioneer. I want to make the presentation of this ground-breaking information consistent and conclusive, so I have researched extensively to be able to pull from all the fascia schools of thought and present it to the world. Here are my findings after 20 years of blazing my own trail:

 

There are 4 types of fascia listed below and detailed in this article.

1. Structural fascia
2. Interstructural Fascia
3. Spinal fascia
4. Visceral fascia

If you want to read more about the different types of fascia and their effect on the human body – even down to the cellular level – please read this literature review of the last 100 years of fascia research!

 

I also explain and demonstrate the 4 types of fascia on a piece of raw chicken, so if you’re a visual learner, the video below will give you a better understanding. I think once you see fascia in action you will have that same “WOW, this is incredible” reaction that I did while performing a human dissection … and you will never look at meat the same again!

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In an earlier article, I broke down the 4 types of  fascia to give you a frame of reference. In this article, I’m going to introduce the importance of healthy fascia, specific to only a few areas. Just know that this information is not the end all, be all, but it will put the wheels in motion and hopefully start an interesting conversation.

 

I’m going to explain how the fascia interplays with the blood supply, nerves and muscles and impacts all types of physical performance. I specifically want you to understand the impact of blood and fascia, as it relates to the quality of our skin. I will explain how the cure for cellulite has finally been realized through my knowledge of fascia and how fat can be encased in fascia and broken down in a healthy, noninvasive way. And last, but surely NOT least, I will explain how fascia impacts pain and our pain sensory.

 

Before we begin, I want you to examine this “at a glance fascia chart” that will help you understand the impact of each stage of fascial recoil. Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you hanging! If you want to “fix” your fascia and work this chart in reverse, I have actually created a self-treatment fascia tool that costs less than $100 called the FasciaBlaster®. However, this blog is more about the science… I just wanted to let you off the hook early so you know that there IS an affordable, effective solution for fascia restoration and maintenance!

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How Fascia Affects Blood Supply, Nerves & Muscles

The 411
Blood, nerves, and muscles are surrounded and penetrated by the fascia system. If the fascia is tight or adhered, it can restrict one or all three like a clamp in a garden hose. This playlist shows a physical representation of how blood and nerves are “in” the fascia, and the video below explains how fascia impacts muscle and sports performance:

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Fascia is literally what holds the blood and nerves in place. Our blood supply and nerves have the ability to “reroute” if they are compressed by tight fascia. This video shows an MLB player whose fascia was restricting blood, nerves, and muscles and seriously impeding his ability to throw without pain. By opening and loosening the fascia with the FasciaBlaster®, we are able to get full access to ALL of our blood supply and nerve and muscle activity, which is vital for overall health and function.

 

Blood is so important because it’s what carries nutrients of all types to our cells, and it is also what causes “pump” to a muscle, including our heart. The nerves send the signals for our bodies to take action, and if the signal is hindered, it can cause less efficient movement, shaking, pain signal, and most importantly,  the nerves can tell the brain that the body needs protection (fight or flight mode).

 

Here is a research article directly connecting the peripheral nervous system (PNS) with the fascial system. The article states that in order for the nervous system of the body to effectively provide motor and sensory transmission (pain, stretch, tension), it has to be connected to the body’s fascia system, specifically in between the superficial and deep layers of muscle fibers. Protection comes in the form of fascial recoil, which causes the neurological state of “fight or flight”. Fight or flight is very dangerous because it leads to full on fascial LOCKDOWN, and it’s difficult to get the body out of the vicious cycle.

 

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Muscles are surrounded by and encased in structural fascia. Some have described it like the inside sections of an orange, and I think that is a reasonably good visual. Muscle fibers are also penetrated and enveloped by interstructural fascia and are controlled by the blood and nerves, which also run through the fascia and muscles. They are literally symbiotic and inseparable. Read this research article for more information about the direct relationship between fascia and the nervous system.

 

 

To summarize, the Autonomic Nervous System (nervous system that controls bodily functions not directed by conscious thought – i.e. breathing) is directly connected and has innervation with the body’s fascial system. Making changes to the fascial system (via the FasciaBlaster®/manual therapy) causes changes to the fascia on the cellular level.

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Ashley Black’s Perspective:

Ok, so let’s get down to the “keep it real” of everything I just hit you with. If the blood supply can be choked out by fascia, then tight fascia can cause everything from varicose veins to heart attacks! Here is an article I wrote that goes into depth on the blood issue. I also want to scream at you: “NUTRIENTS TO THE CELL” … this is also called “life” to your cells. Don’t you want your blood to deliver what is needed? You wouldn’t order something from Amazon and NOT CARE if it was delivered. And if it didn’t, you would for sure blame FedEx! So your blood is Amazon, your fascia is FedEx and your cells are the customers! In other words, make sure you get your package!

 

As I mentioned above, blood also creates “pump” which is what allows the cells to expand. Why do we care? Because pump is what builds muscle. BAM! This is super important, in your face information. If blood can’t reach a muscle it WON’T CONDITION – no matter how hard you train!

 

Nerves work the same way in terms of restriction. The fascia can cause one of two things: the nerves to reroute (which causes muscles to atrophy), or nerves to get over-active (I like to say “pissed off”). This is what feels like zinging, tingling, cramping etc. I have two video examples of this: the atrophied or non-firing muscle and where a bone misalignment was causing sciatic pain. For more information on what causes atrophy, please read this article.

 

So blood and nerves are essentially what control the muscles. I think we all know the importance of having muscles, but I want to point out that fascial adhesions, like little scabs in the fascia, can either cause a muscle NOT to grow, to only grow within the dysfunctional fascial casing, or to be limited in its output and ability to fire. Tight fascia can also freeze joints, cause compression, and limit range of motion, which can cause tendonitis, blown discs, and many other orthopedic issues. I believe this is HUGE for every single person, but especially for athletes that challenge every aspect of their bodies. And as a former competitive gymnast and now an “aging athlete”, I want my body to perform at its highest possible level so that I don’t have to give up snowboarding, surfing, working out, or any of the things I love.

 

I believe healthy fascia is key to anti-aging, staying pain and injury-free, and optimizing your performance. Here is how I address this issue, along with skilled manual therapy, a good diet, and a list of other things for another article:

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How Fascia Affects Blood and Skin

The 411:
So now that you know a little bit about how the blood can be disrupted by dysfunctional fascia, I want you to understand the significance of blood flow and skin. It’s SHOCKING to me how we try to treat skin from the outside! We’ve all heard the words “elastin” and “collagen” tossed around, but did you know that elastin and collagen are both proteins carried by … guess what? The BLOOD! I demonstrate this visually in this video:

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Furthermore, the blood comes from the inside out. The circulatory system works like a tree; the big veins and arteries are like the tree trunk, and the blood that supplies the skin with nutrients is the branches. All the “branches” have to make their way to the surface through the muscles and the … you got it – FASCIA! When you get fascia work of any type, including FasciaBlasting, your blood flow is immediately enhanced, as you can see in these photos and videos.

Here is an article proving the science behind the concept that the FasciaBlaster® and manual therapy increase blood flow.

 

Ashley Black’s Perspective:

So I’m not saying we should just throw away all of our skin care products. In fact, my Blaster Oil and After Blaster are specially designed to work hand-in-hand with the FasciaBlaster®. The Blaster Oil has a fat dissolving component that enters the blood stream and the After Blaster has high-quality arnica, as well as numbing and skin-tightening agents. So don’t get me wrong, I think topical skin care is a piece of the puzzle, but the blood is MORE important. Therefore, FASCIA IS MOST IMPORTANT.

The results sent to us by our real life users for “turkey neck”, stretch marks, wrinkles, and crepe skin are so shocking that you would think it took months of expensive creams, laser treatment, botox, or even plastic surgery to attain! In reality, these amazing outcomes are achieved by using the FasciaBlaster®, and I believe the blood getting to the surface of the skin via healthy fascia is the secret component.

I am so passionate about this that I am creating a face blaster and accompanying fascial products. I vigorously use the FasciaBlaster® on my stretch marks, C-section scar, and my “trouble areas” that I had given up on. This is one of the areas that I have researched and studied extensively and cannot wait to watch evolve. My take away is: if you want youthful, healthy skin… better keep the blood a’ flowing!

 

The C Word … Cellulite & Fascia

The 411:
Cellulite as a stand-alone diagnosis is a total MYTH! Cellulite has become something that I almost dismiss as a term. Most people think cellulite is a fat or diet and exercise issue, but that just isn’t true. I explain this concept here:

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Fat in an area of cellulite is chemically identical to any other type of fat. The only reason areas of cellulite look different than other areas that are smooth, is because fat takes the shape of the fascia. When the fascia is distorted or adhesed, it creates the uneven texture we call cellulite. This video explains the concept:

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The structural fascia (surface layer) can become adhesed from overuse, past injuries, imbalances and more, which is what causes the look of cellulite. The interstructrual fascial septae (cobweb-like fascia) can pull the skin inward and as the fat pushes through the fascia, it creates the dents and crevices we call “cellulite”. When fascia is adhesed, it can also completely clamp down and choke out the fat, creating those unsightly “stubborn fat pockets”. I wrote a whole article about the 4 types of cellulite which you should read to understand more. I also devoted an entire episode of my radio show to the topic, in which I discuss the anatomy of cellulite with a board certified plastic surgeon.

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And because I promised not to leave you hanging, here’s a playlist that shows how simple it is to address your fascial condition – which is what I prefer to call it, rather than “cellulite”.

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Ashley Black’s Perspective:

By now you’re probably thinking “if this is true, why haven’t we heard of this before? If 90% of women have cellulite, and with cellulite being a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry, why is no one addressing this?”.

Ashley Black_fasciablaster results_get rid of cellulite

2 Sessions With the FasciaBlaster®!

 

I have been studying fascia for over 15 years. I also struggled with cellulite my entire life, even though I was a competitive gymnast as a kid, and was always an athletic woman. This is my personal before and after result after using the FasciaBlaster® for just 2 sessions!

It might surprise you that I didn’t have my “AHA moment” about the connection to cellulite until AFTER I had already invented the FasciaBlaster®! I created it for my personal pro-athlete clients, and for the practitioners at my clinics to be able to open and treat the fascia more quickly and effectively so deeper soft tissue work could be achieved. One of my NFL player client’s girlfriend told me that she got rid of the cellulite she had always had by using the FasciaBlaster®. That stopped me in my tracks! I had been manipulating fascia for years for pain and to balance the human structure, but it had never dawned on me that cellulite is fat trapped in dysfunctional fascia! I thought “OMG, I just discovered the cure for cellulite!”

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What I can tell you is that fascia people don’t study cellulite, and cellulite people don’t study fascia … so everyone was missing it. Then I cured my own cellulite and several of my friend’s cellulite, but I had no idea if it would work on someone that wasn’t fit. Guess what? It does! Anyone of ANY age, size, fitness level or body type CAN have smooth skin if they have healthy fascia. With tens of thousands of testimonies from users all over the world, I can certainly say that every person can have healthy fascia if they work at it.

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My Biggest Excitement About Cellulite:

#1 I love having smooth, great legs for the first time in my life

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#2 Women are now able to cure their OWN cellulite and are starting to use the FasciaBlaster® on their families for all sorts of beauty, pain, and health reasons. I had a little bit of an ego about fascia and didn’t really want to focus on cellulite because my career had always been in health. I have since let that go, and I LOVE that women buy the FasciaBlaster® for cellulite, because as a byproduct, they learn all about fascia and new ways to take care of their bodies.

 

Fat & Fascia

The 411:
Let me just clarify right from the beginning, that this is MY THEORY based on the results we’ve seen. I have thousands of testimonies and I am comfortable sharing this information with you, but I also want to be very upfront that this is difficult to prove and needs more research, which I intend to do.

 

We do know it IS possible to lyse a fat cell. Lyse means that the fat cell “pops” into little bits. This quick video explains the concept and I also explain it here on the whiteboard:

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The idea is that you can contract the muscles under the fat to create a hard surface, then you basically exhaust the fat cell until it begins to break down. This is visually demonstrated with chicken anatomy in this video:

 

Once the fat cell is lysed, it is then broken down into tiny pieces that can be expelled from the body by natural processes. By natural processes, I mean out through the broken capillaries, and eventually through urination. Here is a more extensive blog about why I thought of this in the first place and more on the concept of spot reduction.

This video shows a demo on the fat lysing method, which is the FasciaBlaster’s most difficult and also the most painful technique:

 

Ashley Black’s Perspective:

This is a great method for people that want to reduce that “one stubborn area” or awkward fat pockets like saddlebags, inner thigh bulges, a lower tummy pooch, love handles or the dreaded “belly over hang”. With the FasciaBlaster® you can now sculpt your body the way YOU want it to look, in a way that previously was only attained through plastic surgery or clinical procedures. Here are just a few before and after pictures that demonstrate this amazing result!

I personally use this fat lysing method on my stomach, thighs, and knees, and have seen a huge change! BUT, I also want to point out that it’s not a TOTAL miracle because there are deeper deposits of fat that the FasciaBlaster® can’t reach. Primarily, I am talking about the omentum sack, which is deep in the belly. So I would add a little caution here that if you need to lose 20 pounds or more, this is not the way to achieve that – you will need to also diet and exercise. I do offer and recommend a free diet and exercise plan if your goal is to lean out. The “Get F’d” program is the perfect “get healthy” companion to the FasciaBlaster®!

 

Pain & Fascia:

The 411
This is my favorite part! So much pain, tightness, and suffering is unnecessarily caused by distorted fascia. I want you to keep in mind that fascia is literally all over and throughout the body. It can pull, torque, contort, compress, shift, jam, and “mold” the body into any position. Studies show that tension in one structure, such as the knee, can cause tension or issues in adjacent structures, such as the hip or ankle.

 

For instance, if the fascia is tight between two segments of the spine, it can pull the joints closer together and blow out a disc. If the fascia that covers the knee is dysfunctional, then it can torque the knee causing stress on the tendon or issues like tendonitis. If the fascia between the hamstrings, quads and IT Bands is stuck together, then you can have perpetually tight IT Bands. The fascia can recoil on the bottom of the feet causing Plantar Fasciitis. Anything that you may have been diagnosed with that is “frozen” is held frozen by adhesed fascia. These are just a few examples of how fascia is the root cause of the pain most of us have experienced at one point or another. This is directly proven in this research article that explains how performing myofascial therapy such as the FasciaBlaster® reverses the thickening and tightening of the fascia that can lead to issues up and down the kinematic chain.

 

We now know the fascial system is connected to the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and thus the parasympathetic (rest and digest) and the symphathetic nervous system (fight or flight) responses. Some of the worst pain can be caused when the ANS is triggered. The body can recoil all over, causing sets of symptoms to be diagnosed as fibromyalgia, mixed connective tissue disease or Ehlers-Danlos. There are all kinds of “diagnoses” for real pain issues that no drugs or surgeries can cure. We do know that making changes to the fascia causes changes in the ANS, and thus changes to pain sensitivities.

 

If I had to guess, fascia is at the root of about 90% of our orthopedic and neurological pain issues. I know that’s a bold guess – and it is a theory – but having helped tens of thousands of people who were basically hopeless, I feel confident that this is an educated guess. Here is original research that studied fascial manipulation (such as the FasciaBlaster®) and treatment of low back pain.

 

Ashley Black’s Perspective:

This is the category where I go hard core. If you haven’t heard my backstory yet, in a nutshell, I was born with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, then at age 29 contracted a bone eating bacteria which resulted in multiple surgeries including a hip replacement, and left me debilitated and on prescription pain meds. My scar tissue was so severe that my entire body wanted to collapse into my right hip and I was in a constant state of fight or flight. I never intended to study fascia or invent the cure for cellulite, I was just trying to fix myself. I had no vantage point to think any other way than “This is not OK! How am I going to fix it?”.

 

I have learned so many different techniques and I don’t have any problem trying something new. In fact, I have tried so many modalities that I can speak to most of them. My mind is not, and was not cluttered with the traditional medical model or therapy protocols. To be totally honest, I feel like fascia is my “place in the universe” and I was anointed with the knowledge and want to bring what I know and am continuing to learn to the world. I think my suffering was the vehicle to my understanding and I am MOST excited about helping people to NOT HURT anymore. Ok, off the soap box. You can learn more about me here:

 

In Summary

When I first sat down to write this article, I intended to keep each concept to a sentence or two. Well, that obviously didn’t happen! There is just no way to cut it down any more than this blog already has. I feel like what I’ve told you is barely scratching the surface … simply because there is SO MUCH MORE. I hope that after reading this “Fascia 101” article, you will want to dive head first into the Ashley Black Guru world and become a part of this movement. I want you to learn how to treat yourself and to look at your body and health destiny in a more empowered way so you can benefit the way I and so many others have, too.

 

Here’s how get connected and become a part of our Hybrid Health movement:

And most importantly, I hope you will join me in sharing this knowledge. The “share” button is one of the most powerful tools in human history, and I hope that you will be compelled to enlighten your friends, family, and colleagues.

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds” – Samuel Adams

 

 

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