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The “Father of Fascia” is so over it

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

I’m genuinely pleased to see Tom Myers write this (and he must have known when he wrote it that it would be enthusiastically quoted by his critics):

I am so over the word ‘fascia’. I have touted it for 40 years — I was even called the ‘Father of Fascia’ the other day in New York (it was meant kindly, but … ) — now that ‘fascia’ has become a buzzword and is being used for everything and anything, I am pulling back from it in top-speed reverse. Fascia‬ is important, of course, and folks need to understand its implications for biomechanics, but it is not a panacea, the answer to all questions, and it doesn’t do half the things even some of my friends say it does.

I don’t think it has important implications for biomechanics, and I don’t think it does a tenth as much. But this is still progress!

Cells are neat, therefore therapy

After pulling back from that old “fascia” buzzword in top-speed reverse, Myers goes on to tell us about some science about how cells sense the texture of their surroundings:

Organismic movement and stretching — yoga‬, pilates, training‬, manual therapy — can help cells to their proper tension environment by relieving pressure or strain, and this results in better functioning all over. Why should yoga help digestive problems, or some of my bodywork clients report increased regularity of their periods? This points the way.

No, there is no way-pointing here: it’s nifty cellular biology, but it’s about as relevant to our macroscopic activities as knowing how oxygen binds to hemoglobin. We’re talking about molecular scale structures that are the functional equivalent of nerve endings, “feelers” that tell cells “whether they are on a rigid or a soft surface,” cell proprioception. I’m glad for the cells, and I’m glad someone maybe identified how they do this. That’s great, truly it is, go Team Science! But it’s also about as surprising in principle as a tree in a forest. Such a mechanism more or less had to be there. Cells are marvellous little critters, so of course they must know all about what’s going on around them, and doubtless they do it in many clever ways.

Connecting that to yoga and manual therapy is an odd but inevitable spin. Read that again: he goes from cells have cool molecules that detect tension to bodywork makes periods more regular. That’s quite a leap — over a thousand other variables and mechanisms of vitality! And it’s a perfect example of what has always been the problem with the fascia hype: torturing basic biology until it confesses to being relevant to $1+/minute manual therapy.

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