Thursday, August 25, 2016

The 'Fuzz', Acupuncture, and Dissection

Many here will likely have seen this video. It's a bit of a classic. Not only is it accessible and informative, but Gil Hedley is such an oddly interesting person, that it is fun to watch. This particular version of the video also has some updated written thoughts of his based on a greater understanding of fascia since the recording of the original video. These are informative. If you have never seen this video, watch it once through without reading the commentary. Then you might watch it again and read the commentary. I have a couple of my own thoughts which can also be considered:


There is a role of the 'fuzz', these web-like fascial connections between sliding planes of tissue such as muscles. Current understanding indicates that these fascial interconnections are important for proprioception. They help link the muscular system with the nervous system and assist with coordinating complex and efficient movement patterns. So, the 'fuzz' is not bad or pathological, and Gil Hedley was not trying to indicate that it is. But it can become too densified and restrictive (for reasons described in the video). And this can disrupt the proprioceptive role of these fascial attachments, leading to inefficient movement, reduced range of motion, and pain.

Fig. 1: Image from The Science of
Stretch, by Helene Langevin.
the link to this article is in
the paragraph to the left.
In Sports Medicine Acupuncture Certification, we have the opportunity to work with fresh tissue cadavers. It is very interesting to take an acupuncture needle, especially a good quality Chinese needle like a Hwa-To, place it in this fuzz, and rotate it back and forth. This really highlights the adhesive quality of this tissue; it is fascinating to see how quickly it adheres to and wraps around the needle (Fig. 1). This tensions and stretches the fascia and can help explain much of the therapeutic benefits of acupuncture as has been so clearly described by fascial researcher, Helene Langevin (click here to read a great summary of her research).

When doing dissection, many times you are cutting through this fuzz as you separate one structure from the next. This is frequently how you navigate through the structures, as the body's compartments are organized through the fascia. Without these cleavage planes, it is often difficult to know exactly where you are (cadaver specimens are not nearly as clear as an illustration). Imagine using a scalpel to separate a section of an orange. If you veer into the pulp, it is easy to get lost. Like the membrane that contains and separates the orange section, this is one of the roles of fascia; it compartmentalizes the body.

A colleague that studied with another fascial anatomist, Todd Garcia, quoted him as saying 'the truth is in the bucket'. Meaning, in dissection, you are often cutting away this tissue, which contains so much proprioceptive information and is increasingly understood to have so much function, and discarding it. You do this to get to the 'good stuff'. Or, at least, to see the units of the body and better understand its organization. But, in doing so, much of the tissue which can explain the mechanism through which holistic practices such as acupuncture and myofascial release work is discarded.

1 comment:

  1. Still having the same thoughts on that subject.

    ReplyDelete