Massage & Bodywork

NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2020

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82 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k n o v e m b e r / d e c e m b e r 2 0 2 0 technique THE SOMATIC EDGE When Does the Tissue Matter? A Conversation with Robert Schleip, Part 2 By Til Luchau Earlier this year, I spoke at length about fascia, pain, schisms, debates within our field, and much more with Robert Schleip, PhD, director of the Fascia Research Group at Ulm University and research director at the European Rolfing Association. In this second excerpt from our conversation (which has been lightly edited for clarity), Schleip talks about social media discussions around fascia and pain; the pitfalls of certainty in an uncertain world; and networking, humility, and sharing as ways forward. Til Luchau: We've seen a lot of recent debate about the mechanisms that might explain the effects we see in manual therapy, and your work with fascia has in many ways been central to those discussions. In the first part of our conversation (see "Talking to Fascia— Changing the Brain, 20 Years Later: A Conversation with Robert Schleip" in Massage & Bodywork July/August 2020, page 80), you told me a story about how your research interests started with neurological explanations for the effects we see in bodywork. But maybe because of your visibility and identity as a fascial researcher, you sometimes end up being asked to defend or make the case for manual therapy's tissue effects, generally by people arguing that the effects we see are more neurological than tissue-based. I'm just wondering if you see any irony in that? Robert Schleip: Ah, you're referring to the recent debate with the neurocentrists on Facebook and in social media. TL: Sure, there's an example. On Facebook recently, I posted the question, "When does the tissue matter?" You gave a very precise answer. You said, "Maybe in the case of Dupuytren's contracture," and gave a couple of other specific examples. Then, the post exploded with over 200 responses, with people debating back and forth. 1 RS: I think your question was great, Til, but it was interesting that most people said either that tissue never mattered or that it always mattered. And there was almost no constructive debate or discussion happening between the two groups. You warned me about that last time we met face to face—that in the United States there is almost a split around fascia and pain. In my impression, it is similar to the schism you have between Democrats and Republicans— if you belong to one group, you don't have productive conversations with the other one. So I started to ignore it, thinking, "These people are only using social media. The important scientific debates happen on different forums." But that was the first time I think you managed to pull me into that kind of social media debate, and I was amazed how people were not so open to say, "It could be a multidimensional soft-tissue pain." Most people said either "It's only the nervous system" or "Tissue always matters." There is a commonality that I suggested to the Rolfers 20 years ago: Maybe it is the nervous system that is included. And maybe we should be able to question our simple monocausal explanations and say, "Maybe it could be different. Maybe it could be more complex." TL: You were quite masterful in your ability to shift the debate from "Which of these two is it?" to underlying questions about certainty. You invited a point of view that says, "Well, could be. Maybe, maybe not. But what if we acknowledge that we actually don't

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