Role of fascial connectivity in musculoskeletal dysfunctions: A narrative review, 2020

Topics: Fascia; Fascial connectivity; Myofascial chains; Myofascial meridians.

Authors: M.S. Ajimsha, Pramod D. Shenoy, Neeraj Gampawar


Introduction: Musculoskeletal dysfunctions happen to be the most common reason for referral to physiotherapy and manual therapy services. Therapists use several articular and/or soft tissue concepts/approaches to evaluate and treat such dysfunctions that may include integration of myofascial system. Despite the research in this area spanning more than three decades, the role played by fascia has not received its duly deserved attention, owing to the lack of definitive research evidence. The concept of ‘fascial connectivity’ evolved two decades ago from a simple anatomical hypothesis called ‘myofascial meridians’. Since then it has been widely researched, as conceptually it makes more sense for functional movements than ‘single-muscle’ theory. Researchers have been exploring its existence and role in musculoskeletal dysfunctions and clinicians continue to practice based on anecdotal evidence. This narrative review attempts to gather available evidence, in order to support and facilitate further research that can enhance evidence based practice in this field.

Methods: A search of most major databases was conducted with relevant keywords that yielded 272 articles as of December 2019. Thirty five articles were included for final review with level of evidence ranging from 3b to 2a (as per Center of Evidence Based Medicine’s scoring).

Results: Findings from cadaveric, animal and human studies supports the claim of fascial connectivity to neighboring structures in the course of specific muscle-fascia chains that may have significant clinical implications. Current research (level 2) supports the existence of certain myofascial connections and their potential role in the manifestation of musculoskeletal dysfunctions and their treatment.

Conclusion: Although these reviews and trials yield positive evidence for the objective reality/existence of fascial connectivity and continuity, several aspects need further exploration and in-depth analysis, which could not be evidenced entirely in this review. Manual and physical therapists may utilize the concept of fascial connectivity as a convincing justification to deal with clinical problems, but need to remain vigilant that functional implications are still being investigated.

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