Massage & Bodywork

May | June 2014

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92 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k m a y / j u n e 2 0 1 4 Your leg (as well as the rest of you) is like a giant tensegrity toy.* A tensegrity toy. Without fascial support, bones collapse. STACKED AND COMPRESSED? Let's clear up two common misconceptions about your bones. The first misconception is that your skeleton is a tower of stacked and balanced building blocks. The problem with this concept is that bones can't actually maintain vertical assemblage, let alone hold themselves together. Their articular ends are not squared off, but include rounded and uneven surfaces. This explains why a classroom skeleton hangs from a hook or sits on a stand, and is fastened together with bolts and wires. Bones don't stack because they can't (Image 19). If this is true, how then does your skeleton bear weight and form a structural framework? A hint—it receives help from surrounding fascial tissues. This leads to the second fallacy, which is that the body is basically a compression structure comprised of stacked units that bear weight down on the parts below. The theory goes like this: the head sits on the neck; they press down on the trunk; the head, neck, and trunk all rest on the pelvis and so forth to the feet. Yes, your feet take the brunt of the body's pressures and strains, yet it does not pass from head to toe only through your bones. It turns out that the body is less like a brick wall and more like a tensegrity toy (Image 20). This ingenious device demonstrates how dowel rods (bones) and rubber bands (fasciae) can combine their qualities of tension and compression to produce a dynamic framework. This teamwork occurs in the body as well (Image 21), with the placement of the bones balanced by the tensile forces of the fasciae (and the enveloped muscle bellies). 19 20 21 STORY 5 * Based on a design by Tom Flemons. Check out his website——for more products and discussion about tensegrity. You can purchase your own toy at

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