Image of connective tissue

What is singular and impacts your emotions, your psychology and your whole body?

This is not a riddle, it is science and I have worked with it everyday for the past 20 or more years, in one capacity or another. If you took biology lessons at school, you might have heard of the term connective tissue and, you may remember having to copy a picture that looks a bit like this one above.

Did you know that Connective Tissue otherwise known by the technical term ‘Fascia’ can actually hold trauma?

It’s highly likely that you didn’t know this and similar to me, you may not have realised it’s importance. Back in my biology lesson days, I recall questioning why I even needed to learn about these cells and the tissue they formed – how would it help me in the future to know this, especially if I wasn’t planning on being a doctor!

One thing is for certain, we were not taught the significance of connective tissue in relation to pain or even to why it was important in terms of psychology.

I’m going to be a bit technical for the next few paragraphs to show how important connective tissue is and how much it does for us.

The fascia contains collagen and elastin and that holds up the skin; it breaks down over time as we get old which is why skin starts to sags, lines/wrinkles appear and we start to feel like we’re looking old! Women spend a lot of time trying to prevent the signs of ageing and collagen production is a big part of this.

Connective tissue can also be thin and highly flexible when it supports organs, it pervades muscle tissue and carries blood and nerve vessels. It can have differing levels of strength to form ligaments, that attach bone to bone and tendons that attach muscle to bone.

Now for me, this is the clever bit.. it has one other unique, characteristic – it can trap traumatic memory sustained through a physical or emotional origin and forms somatic communication between the body and the brain. It may as a result influence our psyche.

What’s the connection between COVID-19 and the fascia?

At this time however, I am sure you are fed up listening to science. COVID has been an overwhelming drain on our mental health and our wellbeing. So, how can a post about connective tissue support your wellbeing? It’s simple, by understanding the importance of your connective tissue, you’ll be able to identify what your body is physically and psychologically manifesting and hopefully improve your wellbeing.

I am going to answer the question I asked right at the beginning of this post: ‘What is singular and impacts your emotions, your psychology and your whole body?‘ – to do this, I need to discuss cobwebs.

Many of us have seen a fly caught in a spider’s web, have you noticed that no matter how hard the fly struggles to get out, it just becomes more tangled? The threads of the web tighten and warp around the fly. We see the spider sense the presence of the fly and head on towards it. Connective tissue has been described as the body’s web and its behaviour mirrors what happens in a spider’s web, when it is invaded by a trauma. The trauma can be emotional, physical or psychological. (It can also be chemical, but that is a story for another day.) The fact is, that each person has one singular web within their body, but because it has different functions in different areas it adapts itself accordingly. It can be thick and sturdy in some areas like tendons or it can be elastic and pliable like in muscle and ligaments or it can be thin and soft and slippery to encase organs. Connective tissue is the structure that assists in smooth unhindered movement of the human body.

When you experience loss, it can manifest as an immensely visceral sensation. For example, on hearing some awful news, like the death of a loved one, you may have used the phrase “I felt like I had been kicked in the guts’. Some time after that, you may begin getting digestive problems, you may find problems with lower back pain, or issues with hip pain. This could be emotional trauma that locks itself into the body, long after the visceral event has passed. It gets contorted and tangled in the connective tissue around the gut and it tightens along the connective tissue threads, transmitting to other parts of the body, causing misalignments and abnormal pull, on joints and on other mechanisms.

I’d like to discuss an example in relation to some clients that I have treated. Losing a loved one is very difficult and when that person is your spouse, it’s particularly hard because you’ve lost your support. I’ve treated a number of widows, who have suffered from chronic lower back pain which developed after the loss of their spouse. I initially treated the symptom, focusing on the muscles in the lower back, however they still were suffering significant discomfort. When I delved deeper into ‘when’ this pain began, I shifted my treatment methods and focused on the fascial connections deep in the abdomen and used a form of somatic talk therapy. The combination of talk and fascial release using specific touch and manipulation methods resulted in release of emotions that translated through the body and produced a positive and lasting outcome.

The behaviour of connective tissue can be impacted by for example, a physical fall or an emotional event, has the ability to change our mood. If it leaves us with chronic pain, it can stop the healthy functioning of muscles, joints, nerve and circulatory pathways, it can stop us losing weight, it can encourage us to put on weight. It is integral within the body from head to toe, from side to side and from back to front. Its healthy functioning is connected in every possible way to all the systems within the body, and aligning it, is the work of, for example, rehabilitative treatment, physical movement such as yoga and psychological therapy, which includes meditation. The implication is that mind, body and soul are connected by fascia:

If you are suffering with chronic pain, anxiety, depression or other mental health conditions it might be worth also considering what is going on at a connective tissue level. A bodyworker or manual therapist may be able to help you. Sometimes though… talking can be a simple healer too, as well as connecting with yourself spiritually through the practice of yoga and meditation.

If you want to find out more about this then please get in touch and email: shehnaz@thefeelgoodcentre.co.uk.