Understanding muscle fascia
A deeper understanding of how we move requires an understanding of all the components that impact movement. We’re likely familiar with the idea that muscles move bones, but let’s delve a little deeper. While movement is certainly a product of muscles moving bones, there are additional factors that affect the subtleties of movement. One of those is muscle fascia.
Components and types of fascia
Before we get too specific about muscle fascia, let’s review some terms and set the context for where we are in the body when we are talking about fascia, in general.
Remember that there are four types of tissue in the body and one of them is connective tissue. Within the broader category of connective tissue is the specific type: connective tissue proper, also called fascia.
All types of connective tissue proper/fascia have:
- Protein fibers: a mixture of collagen, elastin, and sometimes reticulin fibers
- A ground substance called hyaluronic acid, in which the protein fibers are found
The specific type of connective tissue proper or fascia is determined by:
- the amount of protein fibers
- the type of protein fibers
- the arrangement of protein fibers
Connective tissue proper, or fascia, is divided into loose connective tissue proper (when there are fewer protein fibers) and dense connective tissue proper (when there are more protein fibers).
Depending on the type and arrangement of protein fibers, we could get many different types of either loose connective tissue proper or dense connective tissue proper.
Ligaments, tendons, and aponeuroses (broad, flat, muscle attachments) are examples of dense connective tissue proper.
Adipose tissue (fat) and areolar tissue are examples of loose connective tissue proper.
Diving deeper into muscle fascia
We can refer to specific types of fascia, such as “muscle fascia” when we want to talk about connective tissue proper that has a particular arrangement, type, and amount of protein fibers and has a specific role in the body. Muscle fascia is areolar connective tissue with loosely arranged collagen and elastin fibers. It surrounds each layer of muscle tissue and is continuous with the components of a muscle. Because muscles are not separate from the fascia that encases them and each of their components, we reflect the reality of this integrated arrangement by referring to interconnected muscles and fascia as “myofascia”.
You might remember that the components of a muscle are arranged in a particular way. Groups of muscle fibers are arranged together in a bundle. Multiple bundles of muscle fibers grouped together are called a fascicle. A bundle of fascicles together make up a whole muscle, for example, the triceps brachii.
Each of these components of a muscle is surrounded by a thin sheet of muscle fascia. Each of the muscle fibers is surrounded by fascia (known as endomysium). Each bundle of fibers (a fascicle) is surrounded by fascia (known as perimysium). Each bundle of fascicles (a whole muscle) is surrounded by fascia (known as epimysium). This fascia is interwoven with the connective tissue of the bones themselves, and the ligaments and tendons connecting muscle to muscle and muscle to bone.
Why is muscle fascia important?
You could refer to fascia as the connection component of the body. Fascia is, after all, another way to refer to connective tissue. Fascia is the tissue that connects everything into one big interconnected whole. With this in mind then, you could imagine that tension or length experienced in the muscle is in a relationship with the tension or length in the fascia. Fascia is an important component of maintaining the tensional patterns of the body and can be a part of allowing or restricting movements.
A deeper understanding of movement involves not just muscles and bones, but also muscle fascia. Now that you have a picture of how muscle fascia is integrated into the body, see if how you view movement in the body changes.