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ageist contributors | february 22, 2018

dispatch from inside the body

Christian Stegall, massage/body work professional: 

I’ve had the opportunity to do fresh (un-embalmed) cadaver dissection. It’s fascinating to see and feel the different qualities of tissues in the body. Muscle is firm but has a suppleness, tendons are like hollow reeds that have bend to them, nerves are bigger than you think and have a soft feeling, ligaments are tough, fat is bright yellow and looks like thick, lumpy snot and when you touch it it’s greasy. Some amount of subcutaneous fat makes sense but it’s really weird when you see it wrapping around organs. It’s also strange to see it between your muscle fibers.

There is a layer of fascia (fascia profundis) that lays below the skin and fat layer. It looks like Saran wrap, wrapping the whole body. It’s neat to see because it’s clear and underneath you see all the muscle. It’s like looking at a 3D anatomy chart. Then you have this same fascia wrapping each muscle and each muscle fiber. Healthy fascia is almost clear in color and is very strong but has the ability to change shape in the body as it heats up and cools down. It allows there to be glide between the different layers of tissue, and the tissues then get hydrated through that movement. Without the fascia our muscles and other tissue (nerves, tendons, ligaments) would just stick together. 

What are some of the signs of unhealthy fascia and what causes it? Immobility is one way to get unhealthy fascia. When we don’t move, or move in a limited repetitive way, our tissues don’t hydrate getting sticky and stiff. This means less glide for our tissue layers which means less hydrated tissue. Our tissue will become dehydrated and injury will occur. In a cadaver, when the tissues are exposed to air and the moisture leaves them we see the effects of dehydration — nerves get softer, almost mushy, tendons turn brittle and the visceral fat hardens, sticking firmly to the organs. 

What can be done to prevent this?  Move, move, move. And, of course, drink your water.