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How is my back working? | 3 min reading time

Your large back fascia: fascinating information

Written by Theresia Lechner
Aufgeschnittene Orange gezeichnet

Nowadays, everyone is talking about fasciae training and it is recommended in many places. But what exactly are fasciae, what are their functions and what do I need to know when it comes to my large back fascia?

What holds your body together on the inside

In this sense, your fasciae are very special, as they come into contact with all of the systems in your body. All of your fasciae combined form a three-dimensional construct made from all manner of types of connective tissue, which penetrates throughout your body and encases your bodily components. Imagine it being like the fine, white skin of an orange. But they aren’t just simple covers for your organs and muscles, but themselves have fibres that can tense or relax. Your fasciae enable your body systems to communicate and work with each other in a special way. The structure of your fasciae is also known as a tensegrity structure and looks similar to the roof of the famous Olympic Stadium in Munich [1,2].

Olympiahalle München gezeichnet
Your fasciae have a similar structure to the roof of the Olympic Hall in Munich

Are fasciae Olympic all-rounders?

This tensegrity structure gives them the excellent ability to distribute forces: as their fibres move in almost all directions, they can absorb and evenly distribute forces from any direction. They also protect your muscles and blood vesselsagainst injury. And last but not least, they enable you to move smoothly and easily. With regard to your back fasciae, there is one important and large one: the fascia thoracolumbalis [3,4,5,6].

Fascia Thoracolumbalis gezeichnet
Your large back fascia has various fibre strands, which stretch out in all directions

Big and mighty

Your large back fascia is only around 0.8 to 1.3 millimetres thick. But at the same time, it is extremely strong and can withstand tensile loads of up to 150 kilograms. As it is designed for taking this amount of force, it is most likely insufficiently challenged through lack of pressure from hours of sitting at work. It will start to stick together, become matted or thicken [7].

One layer of your large back fascia stretches across and through your entire back: from the back of your thighs, to your coccyx and then up to your head. It is particularly strong in the area of your lower lumbar spine, just a few centimetres above your gluteal fold. It is also connected to your abdominal muscles. So, if you tense your stomach muscles, you simultaneously stretch your back fascia. This is why it is assumed that regularly trained and well-used abdominal muscles can have a protective effect on your back [8].

As your large back fascia also flows into the joint capsules of your small vertebral jointsand stretches over your sacroiliac joint (= joint between your pelvis and your sacrum), it plays an important role in stabilising the lower lumbar spine and the sacroiliac joint. So it acts like a supporting corset [3,4,5,6].

Rücken Korsett gezeichnet
Your large back fascia stabilises your lumbar spine like a corset

Can my back fascia also hurt?

Today we know that your fasciae have a huge number of small sensors. This makes your fasciae system one of the largest sensory organs in your body and helps you to feel and perceive things. Some of these sensors are pain receptors. That is why it is assumed that an injury or irritation of the fasciae can lead to pain in the lower back. However, this assumption has not yet been backed up by sufficient scientific studies. So we’ll have to wait and see [5,6,7].

In addition, the tension of your fasciae is probably impacted by your vegetative nervous system. This is why stress probably has a negative impact on your fasciae: the tension in your fasciae increases. This, at least, has been proven in a petri dish using rat fasciae and human fasciae agglutinations [10].

Sprechblase mit Stress gezeichnet
Stress has a negative impact on the tension state of your large back fascia

What does your back fascia need to feel good?

If you have problems with your back, or only move very little, then additional connections, or “crosslinks”, can develop between the fibres of your fasciae network. These restrict movement in the tissue and can cause capsule contraction or muscle shortening [11], for example.

That means your fasciae have to be stressed regularly through movement, and therefore tensile stress, so that your movements stay fluid and easy [7].

What you have learnt about your large back fascia

Through its tensegrity structure, which is built like the roof of the Olympic Stadium in Munich, your fasciae are excellent at distributing forces and protecting your blood vessels. Because your fasciae have so many receptors, they are the largest sensory organ in the body and, most likely, are also able to cause painStress and lack of movement are poison for your fasciae.

Back up your knowledge

The renowned fasciae researcher Dr Carla Stecco has made a peculiar discovery: your fasciae have as of yet undiscovered cells called fasciacytes. These cells secrete hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a gel-like substance that lubricates your joints and facilitates gliding between different layers of connective tissue [12]. This discovery has lead to the assumption that your fasciae play a decisive role in enabling your joints to move without pain or restriction.

Important to note:
This article contains general recommendations only and must not be used for self-diagnosing or self-treatment. It is not a replacement for visiting your GP.

[1] Schleip, R., Gabbiani, G., Wilke, J., Naylor, I., Hinz, B., Zorn, A., … Klingler, W. (2019). Fascia Is Able to Actively Contract and May Thereby Influence Musculoskeletal Dynamics: A Histochemical and Mechanographic Investigation. Frontiers in Physiology, 10.

[2] Shockett, S.; Findley, T. et al.(2019): Findings from the frontiers of fascia research: Insights into ‘inner space’ and implications for health. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, Volume 23, Issue 1, 101 – 107.

[3] Schleip, R.: Wissenschaftliche Grundlagen. Die Fascia thoracomlumbalis, in: Schleip, R; Findley, T; Chaitow, L.; Huijing,P. (Hrsg.): Lehrbuch Faszien. Grundlagen-Forschung-Behandlung, 1. Aufl., München: Elsevier, S. 115- 120

[4] Schleip, R.: Die Faszie als Kommunikationsorgan Kapitel. Das Fasciennetzwerk, in: Schleip, R; Findley, T; Chaitow, L.; Huijing,P. (Hrsg.): Lehrbuch Faszien. Grundlagen-Forschung-Behandlung, 1. Aufl., München: Elsevier, S. 115- 120

[5]Willard FH, Vleeming A, Schuenke MD, Danneels L, Schleip R. : The thoracolumbar fascia: anatomy, function and clinical considerations. J Anat. 2012;221(6):507–536. 

[6]Vleeming A, Schuenke MD, Danneels L, Willard FH.: The functional coupling of the deep abdominal and paraspinal muscles: the effects of simulated paraspinal muscle contraction on force transfer to the middle and posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia. J Anat. 2014

Und noch mehr Quellen

[7] Müller G: Update zur Thorakolumbalfaszie. Von der Anatomie zum spezifischen Training. pt 2016; 68 (11): 25-35.

[8] Fan C, Fede C, Gaudreault N, Porzionato A, Macchi V, DE Caro R, Stecco C: Anatomical and functional relationships between external abdominal oblique muscle and posterior layer of thoracolumbar fascia. Clin Anat. 2018 Oct;31(7):1092-1098.

[9] Wilke J, Schleip R, Klingler W, Stecco C.: The Lumbodorsal Fascia as a Potential Source of Low Back Pain: A Narrative Review. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:5349620 

[10] Schleip, R; Jäger, H. , Klinger, W.: Die Faszie lebt: wie Faszientonus und- struktur von Zellen moduliert werden , in: Schleip, R; Findley, T; Chaitow, L.; Huijing,P. (Hrsg.): Lehrbuch Faszien. Grundlagen-Forschung-Behandlung, 1. Aufl., München: Elsevier, S. 115- 120.

[11] Frans Van den Berg (2014): Die Physiologie der Faszie, in: Schleip, R; Findley, T; Chaitow, L.; Huijing,P. (Hrsg.): Lehrbuch Faszien. Grundlagen-Forschung-Behandlung, 1. Aufl., München: Elsevier, S. 110-114.

[12]Shockett, SusanFindley, Thomas et al.: Findings from the frontiers of fascia research: Insights into ‘inner space’ and implications for health. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, Volume 23, Issue 1, 101 – 107.