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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Schleip 2003.

Fascial plasticity: a new neurobiological explanation

updated
Schleip R. Fascial plasticity: a new neurobiological explanation. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies. 2003 Jan;7(1):11–19.
Tags: treatment, fascia, manual therapy, massage, stretch, controversy, debunkery, etiology, pro, exercise, self-treatment, muscle

PainSci summary of Schleip 2003?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused 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.

This paper neatly dissects and dismisses as inadequate some prominent historical explanations for the alleged phenomenon of a fascial “release,” such as thixotropy and piezoelectric signalling. Schleip also does a good job of explaining how tough fascia is, and provides a good primer on a menagerie of mechanoreceptors in soft tissue (nerve endings that detect various pressures and tuggings and sheerings). From there the paper slides into fairly far-fetched speculation about what a “release” might actually be. The general implications are pretty trivial — imagine, the human body might respond to stimuli! — and none of it really has all that much to do with “fascia” per se, and (more importantly) we have no idea whether or not any of it constitutes a meaningful mechanism for a “therapy.” I can make someone twitch their quadriceps by bonking their patellar tendon: does it matter, other than as a test of the reflex itself?

All the speculation rests on a single weak premise: that what therapists believe they are perceiving is a real phenomenon in need of explaining, a palpable movement/shift in the tissue. There may be such a thing, but it’s certainly not a safe assumption. It may well be that the only phenomenon that needs an explanation is why therapists are so convinced that they perceive “releases” in the first place.

~ Paul Ingraham

related content

These two articles on PainScience.com cite Schleip 2003 as a source:


This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights: