Introduction[edit | edit source]

Fascia can be defined as a mechano-metabolic structure containing connective tissue that permeates all organs, muscles, bones and nerve fibres in the human body, forming and supporting them, and providing their continuity. [1]

The video below gives a fascinating introduction to the fascia.


Classification[edit | edit source]

The International Anatomical Nomenclature Committee (1983) used the terms “fascia superficialis” for the subcutaneous tissue and “fascia profunda” for the denser layer lying under it. [3] In the 1998 edition of "Terminologia Anatomica", the Federative Committee of Anatomical Terminology" (FCAT) (1998), indicates that fascia cannot be generalized into two terms, superficial and deep. Instead, they group fasciae terms according to embryological origins and modes of development. [4] Kumka et al. (2012) [4] find this system impractical in terms of communication in research, education, and clinical practice so they devise a functional classification system that divides fascia into four categories; linking, fascicular, compression, and separating fascia.

Characteristics of Fascia[edit | edit source]

Sensory Information[edit | edit source]

Fascia is one of the richest sensory organs in our body, embedded in nerve endings and mechanoreceptors (muscle spindles, Ruffini and Pacini corpuscles, Golgi endings and free nerve endings). Fascia plays a major role in the perception of posture and movement affecting our proprioception and coordination. Whenever we change our posture or move in any way fascial tissues’ mechanoreceptors deform and activate, sending afferent information into the spinal cord and brain. These messages are interpreted by our central nervous system (CNS), then efferent information is relayed to our muscles. [5]

Force Transmission and Elastic Properties of Fascia[edit | edit source]

Fascia, like other soft tissues, has a variable degree of elasticity that allows it to withstand deformation when forces and pressure are applied as it can recover and return to its starting shape and size. It responds to load, compression and force. At the beginning of loading, fascia has an elastic response in which a degree of slack is taken up. Over time, if loading persists in a slow and sustained manner, creep develops. Creep is slow, delayed and continuous deformation. At this point, volume change occurs as water is forced from the tissue. When loading ceases, fascia returns to its original shape. The restoration of shape occurs through elastic recoil via hysteresis, (the process of energy use and loss in which tissues are loaded and unloaded). The time needed for the tissue to return to normal via elastic recoil depends on the uptake of water by the tissue and whether its elastic potential has been exceeded. When loaded for any length of time, tissues lengthen and distort until they reach a point of balance. If loading is sustained, over time, chronic deformation will result. [6]

Clinical Significance[edit | edit source]

Conditions that Affect Fascia[edit | edit source]

Fascial dysfunction can occur for a variety of reasons. Lack of movement variations, sub-optimal nutrition, habitual postures and trauma can impact on the fascia’s ability to glide and slide, which normally helps the distribution and transmission of tension across the body.  Compensatory patterns of movement can then occur resulting in more stress on the fascial system.  Fascial dysfunction is associated with pain, stiffness, tissue fatigue and reduced performance and function.[7] Fascia can shorten, solidify and thicken in response to:

  • trauma
  • anything physically or emotionally injurious to the body
  • inflammation
  • poor posture
  • anything that causes the body to lose its physiological adaptive capacity

This is called a binding down of fascia.[8]

Pain[edit | edit source]

The conditions associated with deep fascia pathology are chronic low back pain, chronic neck pain, Dupuytren's disease, plantar fasciitis and iliotibial band syndrome.[9]

The mechanism behind the joint stiffness and pain in the morning could be explained by the nociceptor activation led by the change in the viscoelasticity of the fascial system such as hyaluronic acid becoming adhesive and less lubricating.[1]

Physiotherapy Management[edit | edit source]

Man massage table.jpg

Fascial treatment is a manual therapy method focusing on releasing specific localised areas of fascia found to be involved in pain and movement/functional limitations.  Through appropriate mobilisation and manual techniques movement can be restored allowing optimal force transmission within the body.

Fascial treatment should be supplemented with exercises and additional modalities, e.g. joint mobilisation and strengthening, designed to correct biomechanical deficiencies by addressing musculoskeletal strength and imbalances throughout the entire kinetic chain.

  • Myofascial release
  • Cupping - There is some evidence to suggest that cupping therapy may be beneficial for certain health conditions. Research into cupping therapy tends to be low-quality and more research is warranted.[10]Please view the following video for a demonstration of cupping therapy.


  • Foam rolling- a self release technique, as shown in the video below, has limited evidence support.


References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Bordoni B, Mahabadi N, Varacallo M. Anatomy, Fascia. [Updated 2022 Jul 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493232/
  2. Scishow Fascia Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-UsSmD7miI (last accessed 24.5.2019)
  3. Schleip R, Hedley G, Yucesoy CA. Fascial nomenclature: update on related consensus process. Clinical Anatomy. 2019 Oct;32(7):929-33.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kumka M, Bonar J. Fascia: a morphological description and classification system based on a literature review. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. 2012 Sep;56(3):179.
  5. Physiospot. Fascia-nated by movement Available from: https://www.physiospot.com/sponsors/fascia-nated-by-movement/ (last accessed 24.5.2019)
  6. Ruth Duncan . Myofascial release (hands-on guide for therapists ) . 1st ed , 2014 .
  7. Goldfeilds Physio. Fascial Manipulation. Available from: https://www.goldfieldsphysio.com.au/services/fascial-manipulation/ (last accessed 25.5.2019)
  8. Ruth Duncan . Myofascial release (hands-on guide for therapists) . 1st ed, 2014.
  9. Kondrup F, Gaudreault N, Venne G. The deep fascia and its role in chronic pain and pathological conditions: A review. Clinical Anatomy. 2022 Jul;35(5):649-59.
  10. Medical News Today. What to know about cupping therapy Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324817.php (last accessed 25.5.2019)
  11. O C Physical Therapy Cupping Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKKc8YLTgOY (last accessed 25.5.2019)
  12. Triggerpoint What exactly is foam rolloing. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzSU2FiFKTM (last accessed 24.5.2019)
  13. Mayo clinic Myofascial pain syndrome. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/myofascial-pain-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375450 (last accessed 24.5.2019)