Book Review: "Fascia: What it is and Why it Matters" 2nd Edition
Author: David Lesondak
The material covered in this book is absolutely-need-to-know for anyone interested in health and wellness, chronic illness, pain management, the human body, the human experience, medicine (western and complementary), anatomy, physical therapies, yoga, ...
Here, David Lesondak explains and explores the topic of "fascia" with a narrative style, all backed up by the latest science, yet contextualized through more ancient wisdom. The book is illustrated with thought provoking diagrams and photographs of the real stuff.
Fascia is essentially the connective tissue which is found throughout our body, wrapping muscles and organs, nerves and bones. Anyone who has ever tried to cut up a raw chicken breast will have encountered the thin, silvery white connective tissue. It turns out this connective tissue is incredibly important and has profound and primary roles in our biological system, health and wellness. In particular, fascia health has a vital and critical in chronic pain and dystonia symptoms of chronic illness and trauma.
The book explains that fascia consists of collagen fibers suspended in a fluid, which together form a "viscoelastic" substance with unusual properties. Fascia can both act as fibrous net, able to resisting change of shape and able to sustain tensile forces, and also flow like a viscous fluid.
“The most important thing to keep foremost in mind, at all times, is that the fascial net is one continuous structure throughout the body... as far as the body is concerned, the fascia is all one - one complex, holistic, self-regulating organ. The 'everywhereness' of fascia also implies that, indeed, it all connected and thus is 'connective tissue'“.
This is illustrated in the book, for example, by a photograph of a single, continuous real piece of fascia taken from a dissection of a human body, which still has the tongue attached at one end and the connective tissue of the toes at the other!
David goes on to explain how the hard skeleton of the bones and the soft skeleton of the fascia in the body, form together a very special type of structure (in the updated second edition, it is mentioned that some people now think that bone is actually also part of the fascia too). Without the tensile strands of the collagen fibers which make up the fascia, the body would simply collapse. The author explores the profound importance of having this type of structure in existence throughout or bodies, and details how the unfamiliar properties of such "tensegrity" structures means we do need to reconsider so much about what we've been taught about those bodies.
Subsequent chapters of the book explore how universal fascial structures exist everywhere in the body, and really do matter in all the parts: muscles, cells, nervous system, organs, brain, before going on to to briefly describe how to diagnose fascial issues and selected therapies for addressing these. Such problems arise when the fluid part of the fascia is too sticky and can't flow, e.g. when the connective tissue becomes dehydrated, and also when the collagen fibers become unaligned or tangled e.g. through chronic stress, injury, infections and trauma. Likewise, therapy is aimed at re-hydrating the connective tissue and restoring the healthy shape and directions of the fibers. Importantly, the fascia has a massive role in chronic pain, because it is where many of the nerves which sense pain have their nerve endings.
The book is full of awe and wonder, including photographs and results from the very latest cutting edge science: as the author admits, due to the blistering pace at which the science of the day is now opening up the worlds of the fascia, his first edition is already out of date! David said at the publication of the original version in 2017: "I was indeed making changes, additions actually, right up to the very last minute. It wasn't that the new science was over-turning the old, but adding to and enhancing the current knowledge base. I want to assure everyone that everything in the current edition is accurate.”
The second edition is David’s opportunity to update what he since discovered, and contains 30% new material. Some of the new inclusions which stood out for me include:
the body wide transport nature of the fluid component of fasia: newer experiments are mentioned where tattoo pigment was injected into the fascia around the colon, and particles of the dye were later found in remote areas in the fascia all over the body.
the role of the fascia in the ubiquitous Endocannabinoid System of the brain and body;
the updated story of the fascial net plastination project which is creating three-dimensional “models” from the entire fascia of the human body;
how a recent study found that people with major depressive disorders have increased stiffness and reduced elasticity in their myofascia, proving that the fascia is a bridge between psychological and physiological health;
David also explains why this knowledge has largely still not penetrated into the University medical training systems. Indeed, historically, fascia was literally considered as throwaway: after a body had been dissected for medical training and anatomy classes, all the parts were returned to the family for proper ritualistic disposal, apart from the fascia, which was generally thrown out as "human waste"! This says all we need to know about the current medical training mindset towards fascia. This is unfortunate, given how the book clearly explains that our fascinating fascial net may be the one part of the human body which makes us who we are or were, more than any other.
Most importantly, from a personal perspective, this book was literally life changing and life saving for me, because it led me down a path of discovery to Deanna Hansen's self-care fascia decompression modality Block Therapy, which works through the body to restore and restructure the fascia, and eventually to Lilian Sjøberg's HOPE-shortcut talking therapy, which works through the mind to release body memories of stressful events that get written into the fascia. These two modalities combined have allowed significant progressive symptom reduction, especially in regards to pain and dystonia, very much more than anything else I've tried.
Lilian and I have subsequently also combined our knowledge and developed a pragmatic, actionable online course “Body Memories and Fascia”, where you can learn more about how to ease suffering and pain due to chronic illness and trauma:
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