This essay by Raymond Lord was copied to here, with permission, from the book Hacking Chinese Medicine, by Dr. J. Hadlock, DAOM, Lac., where it served as an appendix.
This introductory essay about fascia might help you further understand exactly what fascia is, what channel Qi is, how channel Qi is able to move throughout the body, how it responds to thoughts, touch, and chemistry, and how it influences body chemistry in its turn.
Some of the writing is a bit technical. Don’t be alarmed. If you stick with it, you may be astounded, as I was, to learn that the fascia (also known as connective tissue) is a three-dimensional, visco-elastic, temperature-sensitive, highly organized liquid crystal integrated biotensegrity system!
It can perform piezoelectric, photoelectric, and fluorescent functions.
It is a semi-conductor – just like the electrical systems in our computers and cell phones.
It is the matrix through which flows the electrical currents that are accessed by acupuncture.
I highly recommend reading this essay, which brings together so much about fascial tissue, the theories of ancient Chinese medicine, and the greater world of medicine in general.
This essay was very generously donated by Raymond Lord, CMT.
The “Fascianating” Fascia
Fascia, a rallying tissue!
Fascia refers to a body-wide complex tissue that constitutes 66% of our body’s volume and connects everything together, from top to bottom and from the inside out. Hence, it’s anatomical name: connective tissue.
Fascia is Latin for band or bandage, as in a band of land or a bandage of tissue. An elastic Ace bandage could be regarded as fascia.
Historically, fascia’s most common descriptions are narrow: “large sheeFts of woven fabric that surrounds individual muscles and passive structures that transmit stress and strain from muscle activity or outside forces.”
For example, according to Gray’s Anatomy, “Connective tissues play several essential roles in the body, both structural, since many of the extracellular elements possess special mechanical properties, and defensive, a role which has a cellular basis. They also often possess important trophic and morphogenetic roles in organizing and influencing the growth and differentiation of the surrounding tissue.”
The newer, rapidly growing body of fascia literature examines various aspects of fascia such as origin, classification, chemistry, geometry, spatial arrangement, biotensegrity, posture, movement, sensation, memory, mechanics, electrical, regeneration, healing, pathology, and more.
It begins to appear as if fascia has the potential to rally human physiology, all the branches of western medicine, the channels of traditional Chinese medicine and the Sen lines of Thai yoga massage.
I will take you through a few of these aspects. Hopefully, this chapter will start you thinking about possible mechanisms for what you are actually doing when you touch, prod, needle, etc. You will soon see for yourself, that there’s more to it than a simple “large sheet of woven fabric”. Enjoy!
Righting a Wrong Turn
Many people in the medical field, teachers included, believe a human body is a machine that moves around using mechanical leverages: individual muscles and their tendons pull on bones to flex, extend, incline and/or rotate them.
For me, with nearly two decades of mechanical microelectronics process engineering, this overly simplistic concept just made no sense. I know life is more of a process than a structure, so this limited explanation gave me only a very partial picture of the wonders of a moving body.
To deepen my understanding of our human vehicle, I took the first fasciatherapy classes available after I graduated from massage therapy class and read extensively on the subject. I’ve been using fasciatherapy, including the Chinese medical protocol of Yin Tui Na, since 2009 with significant clinical results.
Fascia: origin, formation and classification
The three primary germ layers in the very early embryo of all bilaterian animals are the ectoderm (outside layer), the endoderm (inside layer) and the mesoderm (middle layer). Fascia originates from the mesoderm giving rise to smooth and cardiac muscles, cartilage, bone, blood, lymph, vascular and lymphatic vessels, bone marrow, fibrous and vascular tunic of the eye, synovial membrane of the articular cavities, uro-genital organs, etc.
The fascia surrounding muscle is called perimysium; the fascia surrounding nerves: perineurium; the fascia surrounding bones: periosteum; surrounding the organs of the belly: peritoneum; surrounding the heart: pericardium; the lungs: pleura; the brain’s cortex: meninges, etc.
Fascia can also be classified according to its anatomical location. The superficial fascia is found in the subcutaneous tissue, also called the hypodermis, in most regions of the body, blending with the reticular layer of the dermis. The deep or muscle fascia is the dense fibrous connective tissue that interpenetrates and surrounds the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. Finally, the visceral or parietal fascia suspends the organs within their cavities and wraps them in layers of connective tissue membranes. All and all, fascia accounts for two thirds of the body’s volume.
Fascia’s structure and composition
Crystal or crystalline solid constituents, such as atoms, molecules or ions, are spatially arranged in a highly ordered microscopic structure, forming a neat geometrical lattice: an array of points repeating periodically in all directions. A crystal’s structure and symmetry play a very important role in determining many of its physical properties. Examples include snowflakes, diamonds, and table salt.
Interestingly, liquid crystals are matter in a state that has properties between those of conventional liquid and those of solid crystal. For instance, a liquid crystal may flow like a liquid, but its molecules may be oriented in a crystal-like manner. Examples can be found both in technological applications, as most electronic displays use liquid crystals (LCD), and in the natural world such as silk, DNA, collagens, proteins and cell membranes.
When many microscopic crystals fuse together, the single solid is called a polycrystal. Examples include most metals, rocks, ceramics, and ice. Finally, if the atoms have no periodic (repeating) structure whatsoever, and can spill around loosely like boiled spaghetti, the solid is non-crystalline or amorphous. Examples include glass, wax, plastics and many polymers.
In typical tissue, cells are surrounded and supported by an extracellular matrix made up of an amorphous jelly-like sticky substance called “ground substance”, and fibers. In connective tissue or fascia, the ground substance, also called extrafibrillar matrix, is primarily composed of water, glycosaminoglycans (most notably hyaluronan), proteoglycans, and glycoproteins, while the fibers are elastin, collagen and reticular fibers.
Elastin is a highly elastic protein that allows many tissues to resume their shape after stretching or contracting. As an example, it helps skin to return to its original position when it is poked or pinched.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up from 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content. It is the main component of fascia. Mostly secreted by fibroblast and osteoblast cells, it offers mechanical resistance to stretching, contrary to elastin. Collagen is a family of proteins with 28 types identified and described to date. However, 90% is present in the form of elongated fibrils of type I found in skin, tendon, vascular ligature, organs and the main component of the organic part of bone (periosteum). Just like a recipe, if you change ingredient proportions, you get different results. Here are a few collagen/elastin ratios found in some tissues: bone 3/0, muscle, tendon and cartilage 3/1, skin 3/2, lungs 2/3, ligament 1/3. As you deducted, tissues needing most to stretch have more elastin.
A reticular fiber is composed of type III collagen and is secreted by reticular cells. They crosslink to form a fine meshwork (reticulin) that acts as a supporting mesh in soft tissues such as liver, bone marrow, and the tissues and organs of the lymphatic system.
The collagen protein is an organic polymer of amino-acids structured in a right-handed triple helix, which generally consists of two identical chains (α1) and an additional chain that differs slightly in its chemical composition (α2), which is stabilized by many hydrogen bonds. Each triple helix associates into a right-handed super-coil, referred to as the collagen fibril. As when the fingers of one’s hand are laced between those of the other, each fibril is interdigitated with its neighboring fibrils to a degree that might suggest they are individually unstable, although within collagen fibrils, they are so highly ordered as to be a crystalline lattice. This very particular geometry is very important for mechanical and electrical characteristics, two sides of the same coin, as you will see shortly.
A few mechanical wonders…
Viscous materials, like honey, resist internal sliding (shear flow) and therefore flow slowly, but are nevertheless subject to gradual deformation (strain) with time when a load (shear or tensile stress) is applied. Elastic materials, like common metals, deform when stretched and quickly return to their original state once the load is removed. Viscoelastic materials are hybrids and have elements of both of these properties and, as such, exhibit time-dependent deformation, this phenomenon is known as viscoelastic creep. Whereas elasticity is usually the result of bond stretching along highly ordered layers in a crystal such as collagen fibrils, viscosity is the result of the diffusion of atoms or molecules inside an amorphous solid or gel, such as the ground substance.
As you might have guessed, fascia is viscoelastic.
In addition, as temperature increases, viscosity tends to decrease or alternatively, fluidity tends to increase. Hence, it takes less work to deform or stretch a viscoelastic material an equal distance at a higher temperature, than it does at a lower temperature. A very helpful fact for massage!
Tensional integrity, tensegrity, or floating compression is a structural principle based on the use of isolated components in compression inside a net of continuous tension, in such a way that the compressed members (usually bars or struts) do not touch each other and the preloaded tensioned members (usually cables or tendons) define the system spatially, like a lattice. The idea was adopted into architecture in the 1960s.
Biotensegrity is the term used when tensegrity principles are applied to such biological structures as a cell’s cytoskeleton, the helix of collagen and DNA, the geodesic dome of Volvox (a fairly complex green algae that forms spherical colonies), etc. Therefore, self-assembly of compounds, proteins, and even organs, can all be understood based on tensegrity. Why? Because, the tension-compression interactions of tensegrity minimize material needed, add structural resiliency, and constitute the most efficient possible use of space. Therefore, natural selection pressures would strongly favor biological systems organized in a tensegrity manner.
In the muscular-skeletal system, bones present the discontinuous compression members, while fascia, muscles, tendons and ligaments are the tensioned members that provide the continuous pull of tension. According to the tensegrity model, the whole body is a three-dimensional viscoelastic lattice, balanced by an integrated system of compression-tensional forces in dynamic equilibrium.
Consequently, all of this means the fascial net is a 3-D viscoelastic temperature sensitive highly organized liquid crystal integrated biotensegrity system because when a load is applied anywhere on the body, it can affect the whole body, inside and out and back again, using a non-linear, time delayed load distribution. Take it from a mechanical engineer, this is fascianating fascia!
It is my understanding that this is the main reason why the constant holding maneuvers (viscoelastic creep) of Yin Tui Na are so effective in spontaneously releasing stored structural blockages in the body wide lattice. Also, the temperature dependence of liquid viscosity is why I perform Yin Tui Na with client’s lying on a far infrared (FIR) heating mattress, easier to stretch. Take it from a massage therapist, this is fascianating fasciatherapy!
A few electrical wonders…
Three ways to conduct electrical current
As far as we know today, electrical currents can be conducted in three ways: metallic, ionic and semi-conduction. Let’s see which ones are of interest in our context.
Metallic conduction can be imagined as a cloud of electrons moving along the surface of metal, usually a wire. Since wires are absent from living beings, it can be discarded de facto.
Ionic current is conducted in solutions by the displacement of ions, atoms or molecules carrying a charge. The current is driven by the difference between their protons’ positive charge and the number of negative electrons. Since these charged atoms and molecules are a lot bigger than electrons, they meet significant resistance when passing through a conducting substance and the current fades out very rapidly. Even though this works across a nerve fiber membrane, it is impossible to maintain such a current the whole length of nerves.
As the term suggests, semi-conduction is a hybrid between conduction and insulation. Semiconductors carry small currents over long distances. One may think they are inefficient because the currents are so small, but they fulfill a special need. Semiconductors devices can display a range of useful properties such as passing current more easily in one direction than the other, showing variable resistance, and sensitivity to light or heat. Because the electrical properties of a semiconductor material can be modified by controlled addition of impurities, or by the application of electrical fields of light, devices made from semiconductors can be used for amplification, switching, and energy conversion.
Without semiconductors, phones, computers, satellites, and all the rest of your electronic goods would be impossible. This semiconducting mode is also involved in regulating biological growth, healing, and perhaps other basic biological processes. As you may have guessed, it only occurs in matter with an orderly molecular structure, such as crystals and… fascia!
Why is an orderly molecular structure required? Because a crystalline latticework structure requires, imposes, a specific quantity of electrons per atom. Thus, any extra electrons will be free to move through the lattice. These extra electrons come from impurities, or doping atoms, which fit in the lattice’s spaces. The movement of excess electrons is called a negative current or N-type semi-conduction.
If the doping atoms have fewer electrons than the others, the holes in their electron clouds can be filled by electrons from the other atoms, leaving holes elsewhere. Much as in a game of checkers, one counter could jump along a row of other pieces across the entire board. The movement of holes, which can be thought of as positive charges, is called a positive current or P-type semi-conduction.
Again, fascia has semi-conduction properties.
Piezoelectricity is the electric charge that accumulates in certain materials such as crystals (quartz, tourmaline, topaz, sucrose), certain ceramics, and of course biological matter such as bone, dentin, enamel, tendon, silk, DNA and various proteins like collagen, in response to applied mechanical stress, such as pressure.
For example, if you bend a piezoelectric crystal hard enough to deform it slightly, there will be a pulse of current through it. As mentioned above, the squeeze pops electrons out of their places in the crystal lattice. They migrate toward the compression surface, so the charge on the inside curve of a bent crystal is negative. The potential quickly disappears if you sustain the stress, but when you release it, an equal and opposite positive pulse appears as the electrons rebound before settling back into place (hole movement).
The piezoelectric effect is understood as the linear interaction between the mechanical and electrical state in crystalline materials: spark makers. Common applications are the electric cigarette lighters, push-start propane barbecues, and quartz watches. The piezoelectric effect is a reversible process, in that materials exhibiting the direct piezoelectric effect (the internal generation of electrical charge resulting from an applied mechanical force), also exhibit the reverse piezoelectric effect (the internal generation of a mechanical deformation resulting from an applied electrical field), also called the converse piezoelectric effect. The reverse piezoelectric effect is used in production of ultrasonic sound waves.
OK! You saw this coming: fascia is piezoelectric!
The photoelectric effect is the observation that many metals emit electrons when light shines upon them. Electrons emitted in this manner can be called photoelectrons. Many semiconductors absorb energy from light, and any current flowing through the crystal lattice gets a boost. In addition, some of the current’s energy gets turned into light and is emitted from the surface. In other words, electricity makes some semiconductors glow. Some glowing semiconductors are called light-emitting diodes or LEDs. LEDs are found in digital readouts of watches, calculators, phones and TVs.
In the case of bone, a light-emitting semiconductor, the light emitted is an invisible infrared frequency or heat.
(I am so predictable)…yes, semiconductor fascia is also photoelectric!
Fluorescence is the emission of light by a substance that has absorbed light or other electromagnetic radiation, such as ultra-violet. In most cases, the emitted light has a longer wavelength, and therefore lower energy, than the absorbed radiation. The most striking examples of fluorescence occur when the absorbed radiation is in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum, and thus invisible to the human eye and the emitted light is in the visible region. Some semiconductors fluoresce: bones fluoresce a bluish ivory. Chemically separated components such as collagen yields an intense blue, and apatite (a crystalline mineral that’s mainly calcium phosphate) a dull brick-red.
Nerve fascia vs. Channel Qi
Even though eastern doctors, notably Chinese, have measured lower skin electrical resistance over acupuncture points, the biggest difficulty Western medicine had in translating this finding into the concept of currents was the as-yet unidentified structure that allowed for current conduction. In an effort to elucidate such mystery, western scientists made electrical instruments indicating that, in addition to the nerve impulses and/or alternating current (AC), a direct current (DC) was indeed flowing to the central nervous system. After numerous experiments on peripheral nerves, the Schwann cells of the perineural fascia, cells that biologists previously labeled “nerve insulation”, turned out to be the missing link: those cells conduct DC!
Since nerve fascia covers every single peripheral nerve, even those without myelin, its bodily distribution is widespread, surrounding every nerve cell with a suitable electrical milieu. This allows organisms to sense both the kind and gravity of damage, and to transmit a direct current of injury or its associated pain, to the central nervous system. In other words, we possess an elaborate and multistage auto-regulating feedback configuration for healing.
Consequently, the fascial net is a 3-D piezo & photo electric highly intricate semiconductor which generates and conducts electrical currents and electromagnetic waves for the self-regulation required for growth and regeneration of cells and tissues. It is my understanding that this is the reason why the constant holding maneuvers of Yin Tui Na and the insertion of acupuncture needles are so effective in releasing detrimental, stored structural blockages and facilitating the flow of Channel Qi.
Take it from a microelectronics process engineer, this is fascianating fascia!
The therapist’s job
When a manufacturing line promptly stops as its products cease to flow, or when a patient’s health decreases as the flow of Channel Qi is either congested or blocked, a process engineer’s or therapist’s job, respectively, is to help restore the flow by identifying and removing obstructions. In humans, these obstructions can be in the form of scars, germs, adhesions, “demons”, negative emotions such as fear, etc. In biological systems, the obstruction thwarts the driving force of life as manifested in the electrical currents that flow through the fascia.
 Sometimes, authors use the plural form as in fasciae or connective tissues. Even though this is not a spelling error, it feeds the limited idea of discrete functions versus a holistic understanding of fascia as an entity. Hence, the singular form will be used hereafter.
 Williams PL. Gray’s anatomy, 38th edn. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 1995:75.
 The name collagen comes from the Greek kólla, meaning glue, and suffix -gen, denoting producing. This refers to the compound’s early use in the process of boiling the skin and sinews of horses and other animals to obtain glue.
 Derived from the Greek piezo or piezein, which means to squeeze or press, and electric or electron, which means amber, an ancient source of electric charge.
About Raymond Lord
Raymond Lord is a certified massage therapist in Québec, Canada. Since 2009, he has practiced the Chinese medical protocol of Yin Tui Na at his fasciatherapy clinic. He also promotes and writes on the subject of the role of fascia in healing. Prior to his career in the healing arts, he practiced mechanical engineering for over 20 years, most of it as a microelectronics manufacturing process engineer at a blue chip company.
His personal mission: “Unite hard and soft skills to maintain Life with enthusiasm!”
His website is http://sites.google.com/site/raymondlordmassoagree
His email address is: RaymondLord.firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: The website is in French, with only a small amount of English content. Mr. Lord is completely fluent in both languages.
Mr. Lord has also referred me to the findings of the Connective Tissue Lab at the OSHER Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. This group is looking for a link between what they call “the mysterious” acupuncture channels and the highly conductive fascia currents.
As a sign that research is leading to a bridge between fascia and acupuncture, the first Joint Conference on Acupuncture, Fascia, and Cancer was held at Harvard in November of 2015. Mr. Lord, by invitation, presented a poster at this conference.