Fascia is too tough for mechanical deformation
PainSci summary of Chaudhry 2008?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focussed on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★☆☆☆?2-star ratings are for studies with flaws, bias, and/or conflict of interest; published in lesser journals. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.
In this paper, Chaudhry and colleagues show that fascia is much too tough a tissue to “release” by mechanical deformation. This contradicts a defining rationale for therapies focussed on manipulating fascia. Although not all therapists assume that fascia is “tight” and needs to be “released,” a great many still do.
The authors imply in their summary that it might be possible to change the thin superficial nasal fascia, but the main text of the paper makes it clear that even that fascia is extremely tough, and would only mechanically deform if subjected to surprisingly intense forces. This is consistent with well-established properties of fascia, namely that it’s extremely tough stuff. Collagen is like that.
If I could write my own conclusion to this paper, it would go more like this:
CONCLUSION: You cannot change the structure of fascia, because it is tougher than Kevlar. If the stuff were much thicker than it is, people would be bulletproof.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: If you want to physically change someone's fascia by force, you're going to have to get medieval. This directly contradicts a major popular rationale for fascial manipulation.
CONTEXT: Although mathematical models have been developed for the bony movement occurring during chiropractic manipulation, such models are not available for soft tissue motion.
OBJECTIVE: To develop a three-dimensional mathematical model for exploring the relationship between mechanical forces and deformation of human fasciae in manual therapy using a finite deformation theory.
METHODS: The predicted stresses required to produce plastic deformation were evaluated for a volunteer subject's fascia lata, plantar fascia, and superficial nasal fascia. These stresses were then compared with previous experimental findings for plastic deformation in dense connective tissues. Using the three-dimensional mathematical model, the authors determined the changing amounts of compression and shear produced in fascial tissue during 20 seconds of manual therapy.
RESULTS: The three-dimensional model's equations revealed that very large forces, outside the normal physiologic range, are required to produce even 1% compression and 1% shear in fascia lata and plantar fascia. Such large forces are not required to produce substantial compression and shear in superficial nasal fascia, however.
CONCLUSION: The palpable sensations of tissue release that are often reported by osteopathic physicians and other manual therapists cannot be due to deformations produced in the firm tissues of plantar fascia and fascia lata. However, palpable tissue release could result from deformation in softer tissues, such as superficial nasal fascia.
These three articles on PainScience.com cite Chaudhry 2008 as a source:
- PS Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain Syndrome — A guide to the unfinished science of muscle pain, with reviews of every theory and self-treatment and therapy option
- PS Save Yourself from Shin Splints! — Causes and treatment options for shin splints explained and discussed in great detail, especially shin pain caused by myofascial trigger points, compartment syndrome, medial tibial stress syndrome, and stress fracture
- PS Does Fascia Matter? — A detailed critical analysis of the clinical relevance of fascia science and fascia properties