Fascial Meridians. Our Physical ánd Energetic chains of Force
The science of Fascia is less about examining things by breaking them down into smaller and smaller parts, but more about looking at synergetic relationships. Fascia gives us an invitation into stringing our parts together rather than dissecting them further: looking at our system as a whole. Adopting a view like this does not only offer exciting holistic healing opportunities, it also leads to powerful integrative therapeutic strategies.
Traditionally almost every text presents muscle function by isolating an individual muscle on the skeleton. My medical friends confirm that this is also the way they learned about the muscles in school: they attach from bone to bone, and that their main function is to hold the two ends together.
The Fascial and perhaps more Modern view show us that muscles are actually always linked together in the body’s fascial network. When we activate a muscle in one place, a reaction is transmitted throughout the body. This happens through the connective tissue network of fascia which interconnects the whole body together. So instead of looking at individual muscles, we can also look at the bundled together, inseparable nature of muscle tissue (myo-) and its accompanying body wide web of connective tissue (myofascia).
Muscle cells are caught within the fascial net like fish within a net. Their movement pulls on the fascia, the fascia pulls on the bone (as it even wraps around the bones). Hence stability, strain, tension, fixation, resilience, and postural compensation are all distributed through the Fascia. So we could say that instead of having 600+ individual muscles, we actually have really only one muscle; encased by 600 or more fascial pockets.
What is super interesting furthermore is that researchers have been able to identify that these forces can be seen to run along traceable 'meridians' or ‘chains’ of myofascia.
There are different ways to look at these so-called Fascia chains. An incredible viewpoint, which has been revolutionary to functional movement, is from Fascia researcher and body work expert Tom Myers. In his book ‘Anatomy trains’ he identified 12 main (myo)fascial chains, and mapped them as direct lines of force transmission through the body.
Tom might have written his Anatomy chains book in the 1990s, but what is very fascinating is that these 12 chains of force transmission can be nearly exactly overlaid on to the 12 principal acupuncture meridians from Traditional Chinese Medicine, which practice dates back to over 2,500 years ago!
So here we have an esoteric piece of wisdom that has been used for millennia in Eastern healing methods, which finds itself with a nearly literal physiological and scientific modern day equivalent.
There are several studies supporting the anatomical and functional correspondence between the ancient energetic meridian network and the modern fascial system network. In one of these, Peter T Dorsher, MD (2009), concludes that ”the strong correspondence of the distribution of the acupuncture and the myofascial meridians provides an independent and anatomical line of evidence that the acupuncture Principal Meridians likely exist in the myofascial layers of the human body.”
From this more holistic viewpoint then we find a world of opportunity to better understand postural and movement limitations and also to move away from symptom based - to more root cause therapy, even through the means of the physical body.
So does this mean you should not learn the names and functions of the individual muscles? On the contrary. We want to understand all individual building blocks in healing. As well as understanding the interconnected whole, so that we can zoom in and zoom out at will. This allows us to add all together in an integrative and therapeutic program.