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Planes, Trains & Vectors?

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I love Steve Martin movies, but today’s article is not about his stressful travel adventures.  “Planes, trains and vectors” are, indeed, words that explain locomotion, but also apply in the world of human anatomy.  These words convey direction of movement and the connectedness of body segments.  Our musculoskeletal linkages are a hot topic among researchers from around the globe who are suddenly making exciting discoveries about the human body’s key ingredient, fascia; our connective tissue. With musculoskeletal pain recorded as the fastest growing disease statistic in the world, new information about fascia is extremely important. In a manner of speaking, this tissue is the “glue” holding us together. Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide and many folks have high hopes that ongoing fascia research may provide the missing pieces in solving the puzzles of body pain.

Body planes create a universal way to describe movement in the body.

“Plane,” has been standard terminology for years signifying the general direction of movement in space (Forward and back is sagittal plane, side to side is coronal plane, and rotation is the transverse plane).  “Vectors” or “force vectors” are a more complicated measurement technique borrowed from mechanical engineering, but are used in human biomechanics to quantify how forces act on joints when transferred from one body part to another to create movement (imagine the foot to arm force in a baseball pitch). These 3-dimensional concepts are customary techniques already used in science to describe movement or measure stress on our tissues.

Enter:  “Train.”  This new-er concept was coined by Tom Myers in his “Anatomy Trains” text to depict the linkage of the human body’s myofascial tissue in ‘lines’ of natural force production across body segments.  Myers’ book is helping create a long overdue shift in how experts explain movement mechanics by letting go of the old textbook focus on isolated movements of individual muscles within their end-to end attachments.

For anyone who has taken a traditional human anatomy course, you probably emphasized (and painfully memorized) individual muscles and bones by name, but never discussed fascia.  Fascia or myofascia (muscle + fascia = myofascia) is our internal scaffolding; an uninterrupted, adaptable, three-dimensional framework of gelatinous connective tissue that extends from interior to exterior, front to back and head to toe, linking muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels and other structures inside of us.  While lessons we learned about individual muscles are still true, there is much more to comprehend about how the same muscles work within this continuous web of connective tissue.   It is hard to comprehend that scientists at medical laboratories used great efforts to clean the abundance of fascia off of cadavers, and then discarded it without analysis until the past decade or so.  Ironically, in about 1900, Andrew Taylor Still MD the ‘father of osteopathic medicine,’ wrote a tremendous amount of accurate theory about fascia, but it was not truly recognized until 2012. Amazing what he was able to discern with so little equipment!

Come back on Friday to learn more about how research science can be applied to your teaching and movement practice!


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