Massage & Bodywork

July/August 2012

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education PATHOLOGY PERSPECTIVES | BODY AWARENESS | FUNCTIONAL ANATOMY | SOMATIC RESEARCH International Fascia Research Congress 2012 "What Do We Notice? What Do We Know?" By Diana L. Thompson The Third International Fascia Research Congress was held in Vancouver, British Columbia, April 28–31, 2012. Some 800 scientists and clinicians from 37 countries attended the sold-out conference, stretching their knowledge of fascia—slowly and gently, of course. In five short years, great strides have been made in fascia research,1 and the three Fascia Research Congresses have had quite an impact on where research is today. Each congress had a unique theme and personality, beginning with basic science, as so much of the information about human anatomy and biomechanics was cutting edge and provided new ways of understanding connective tissue as a whole system. Congresses progressed to include translation, which helped clinicians make the scientific data meaningful and applicable to their practice. The paradigm was shifting significantly, requiring all to come together and share the newfound knowledge in order to productively move forward; by the end of the first congress, scientists and clinicians alike realized we were in this intellectual journey together and had much to learn from each other. FIRST INTERNATIONAL FASCIA RESEARCH CONGRESS The First International Fascia Research Congress, at Harvard University in 2007, was heavy on basic science; clinical implications were not discussed from the podium until the final panel. Even then, questions from clinicians such as Leon Chaitow, Diane Lee, and Thomas Myers were plentiful, but answers from scientists were lacking. Out of necessity, the breaks throughout the congress were alive with conversations speculating on the impact the newfound scientific data would have on clinical practice. Excitement was palpable and heads nodded in confirmation, pleased that science was finally catching up with what our hands had been feeling all along. My "aha" moment came while watching slides and videos on dissection, with the proposed concept that ligaments are, in many cases, the by-product of cutting away the fascia. I used to believe that the sole purpose of ligaments was to stabilize joints, and that muscles were the only soft tissues with contractile ability, but no more. Ligaments (and fascia) are sensory organs that have significant input to sensation and the reflexive/synergistic activation of muscles.2 I vowed never to touch a muscle, ligament, or tendon in isolation again without considering the fascial links. I began to bridge joints with my hands and work related muscle groups simultaneously. I worked the fascia more consciously from then on, stretching it slowly with broad, not just local, intent. SECOND INTERNATIONAL FASCIA RESEARCH CONGRESS The Second International Fascia Research Congress in Amsterdam in 2009 had presenters including clinical implications: the basic- science researchers were a bit more prepared to consider the impact of their findings on treatment applications. Clinicians also presented visual confirmation of treatment effects, such as ultrasound images of fascia pre- and posttreatment. Postcongress workshops provided opportunities to tie the research into clinical practice, and translational research was more prominent. My "aha" moment in Amsterdam built on what I learned in Boston. Not only does fascia transfer force across joints and communicate with muscles, I learned that it is a dynamic, multitasking network, connecting and communicating with lymph, nerves, and organs.3 Fascia is constantly adapting to signals from all systems in the body, influencing more than just bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. 52 massage & bodywork july/august 2012

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