Postural Fascia

Published by Shauna Burchett, OTR/L on

This article is from a book that I continually find useful in the treatment of soft tissue.

There are specializations of fascia, such as plantar, iliotibial, gluteal, lumbodorsal, cervial and cranial which stabilize and permit maintenance of upright posture.  Some of the fascia specializations of the body are referred to as ‘postural fascia’ because they have a special postural function and are among the first to show changes in the presence of postural defects.  They assist in producing the necessary stabilization and, at the same time, permit motion initiated by muscular activity.  Fascia is supplied with sensory nerves and many of its specializations previously mentioned are characterized by stress or tension bands of varying thickness.

Wherever the deep fascia is subjected to tension, it is reinforced in some way;  for example, it may be further strengthened by depostion of paraneural bundles of collagenous fibres so that they form a definite aponeurosis.  Dr. Leon Page (Academy of Applied Osteopathy Yearbook[1952]) points out:

The cervical visceral fascia extends from the base of the skull to the mediastinum and forms compartments enclosing the oesophagus, trachea, carotid vessels and provides support for the pharynx, larynx and thyroid gland.  There is a direct continuity of fascia from the apex of the diaphragm to the base of the skull.  Extending through the fibrous pericardium upward through the deep cervical fascia the continuity extends not only to the outer surface of the sphenoid, occipital, and temporal bones but proceeds further through the foramina in the base of the skull around the vessels and nerves to joint the dura.

Thus it can be seen that the respiratory movements or the positions of the head and neck could have an influence upon the intracranial structures purely through continuity of fascia as well as upon the thoracic visceral and vascular structures.

This provides part of the rationale behind cranial manipulative techniques.  At birth much of the connective tissue is loose and poorly defined. Abnormal tensions during development may result from trauma, faulty nutrition, wrong use, etc.  and encourage posture bands to become fixed in states of unequal tension.  This may result on shortening and thickening of fascia and of the osseous structures into irregular patterns.  Structural imbalance increases the load on postural muscles and fascia with consequent reinforcement of these abnormal states.

It should be recalled that in humans the degree of hip extension required for the upright posture is dependent on the hamstring and gluteus maximus muscles which initiate knee joint extension together with the quadricep femoris. The tensor fascia lata provides the opposing force for the hypertensors. These all deserve attention in diagnostic and therapeutic terms.

References:  Book:  Chaitow, Leon.  Soft Tissue Manipulation:  A practitioner’s guide to the diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue dysfunction and reflex activity.  Rochester, Vermont:  Healing Arts Press.; 1988.

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Shauna Burchett, OTR/L

Shauna Burchett, OTR/L is a skilled occupational therapist and the owner of Synergy Healthcare. She graduated from the University of Alberta in 1993 with a degree in Occupational Therapy. Shauna began her career as an occupational therapist specializing in traumatic head injuries. She has also worked in skilled nursing facilities specializing in long and short term geriatric rehabilitation. Shauna has been in private practice since 1998.