The Fascia (reprint)

Pages: 31-34
Year: 2001
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration: The journal of the Rolf Institute – Autumn 2001 – Vol 29 – Nº 04

Volume: 29

Philosophy of Osteopathy was written and published by Andrew Taylor Still in 1899. Especially interesting is its picture of therapeutic premises, manipulative and otherwise, at the turn of the present century.

Andrew Taylor Still, founding pioneer of Osteopathy, lived and worked in Kirksville, Missouri, where he established a school, the American School of Osteopathy, still a potent force in manipulative therapy.

The premises of Structural Integration are often compared to those of Osteopathy, and their similarities and differences discussed and/ or questioned. Those who understand and practice Structural Integration realize that a dimension is added to the premises of Osteopathy: Structural Integration consciously depends on a major contribution from gravity for any long-lasting therapeutic effects that may occur.

This is the significance of the vertical gravity line which we work to install in a body, and of the symmetrical balance we build around this line. But this end can only be attained by creating a substantial balance in the fascia] component of the body, the connective tissue which in Structural Integration is seen as the organ of structure. For this reason early thinking about the role of the fascia is of great interest to us, and the pioneering considerations of Dr. Still highly significant.

Dr. Still, the first modern to attribute importance to fascia, was a rare human being still revered, still beloved by all who recognize his unremitting struggle to bring order and understanding to the concept o human structure. He was the first to recognize that any practical approach to manipulative theory was possible only through the agency of fascia.

At the turn of the century, the derivation of fascia from the mesoderm component of the body and the unique chemical qualities of collagen, were not understood. Nor was the concept appreciated that that which we call a man is basically an energy field, reacting to larger encompassing fields of the earth; fascia is necessarily the primary medium through which this relation attains three dimensional reality.

The seventy-five years since the original publication of Dr. Still’s papers have contributed vastly to a clearer recognition of the role of fascia. But the struggle of Andrew Taylor Still to clarify and establish the role of structure in human well-being will remain a classic in the historic record of human thought.

Ida P. Rolf, 1974


Disease is evidently sown as atoms of gas, fluids, or solids. A suitable place is necessary first to deposit the active principle of life, be that what it may. Then a responsive kind of nourishment must be obtained by the being to be developed. Thus we must find in animals that part of the body that can assist by action and by qualified food to develop the being in foetal life. Reason calls the mind to the rule of man’s gestative life first, and as a basis of thought, we look at the quickening atom, the coming being, when only by the aid of a powerful microscope can we see the vital germ. It looks like an atom of white fibrin or detached particle of fascia. It leaves one parent as an atom of fascia, and to live and grow, must dwell among friendly surroundings, and be fed by such food as contains albumen, fibrin and lymph; also the nerve generating power and qualities, as it then and there begins to construct a suitable form in which to live and flourish. And as the fascia is best suited with nerves, blood, and white corpuscles, it is but reasonable to look for the part that is composed of the greatest per cent of fascia, and expect it, the germ, to dwell there for support and growth.


When you follow the germ from father until it has left his system of fascia, we find it flourishing in the womb, which organ is almost a complete being of itself. The center, origin, and mother of all fascias. It there dwells and grows to birth, and appears as a completed being, a product of the life-giving powers of the fascia.

With this foundation established, we think we prove conception, growth, and cause of all diseases to be in the fascia.

As this philosophy has chosen the fascia as a foundation on which to stand, we hope that the reader will chain his patience for a few minutes on the subject of the fascia, and its relation to vitality. It stands before the philosopher as one of, if not the deepest living problems ever brought before the mind of man.

We will ask your attention in the attached effort to describe the fascia at greater length. It being that principle that sheathes, permeates, divides and sub-divides every portion of all animal bodies; surrounding and penetrating every muscle and all its fibers – every artery, and every fiber and principle thereunto belonging, and grows more wonderful as your eye is turned upon the venous system with its great company of lymphatics, which supplies the water of life, used to reduce too-heavily thickened blood of the veins, as it approaches the heart on its journey, to be renewed after purification and thrown back into the arteries to patrol, nourish and supply from headquarters to the videts of this great moving army of life, the substance of which we are now speaking.


The fascia is universal in man and equal in self to all other parts, and stands before the world today the greatest problem, the most pleasing thought. It carries to the mind of the philosopher the evidence, absolute, that it is the “material man”, and the dwelling place of his spiritual being. It is the house of God, the dwelling place of the Infinite so far as man is concerned. It is the fort which the enemy of life takes by conquest through disease and winds up the combat and places thereon the black flag of “no quarters”. That enemy is sure to capture all forts known as human beings at some time, although the engagement may last for many years. Procrastination of surrender can only be obtained by giving timely support to the supply of nourishment, with an unobstructed condition, kept up in favor of the nerves interested in the renewal of the human system, that powerful life force that is bequeathed to man and all other beings, and acts through the fascia of man and beast.


The fascia gives one of, if not the greatest problems to solve as to the part it takes in life and death. It belts each muscle, vein, nerve, and all organs of the body. It is almost a network of nerves, cells and tubes, running to and from it; it is crossed and filled with , no doubt, millions of nerve centers and fibers to carry on the work of secreting and excreting vital and destructive. By its action we live, and by its failure we shrink, or swell, and die. Each muscle plays its part in active life. Each fiber of all muscles owes its pliability to that yielding septum-washer, that gives all muscles help to glide over and around all adjacent muscles and ligaments, without friction or jar. It not only lubricates the fibers but gives nourishment to all parts of the body. Its nerves are so abundant that no atom of flesh fails to get nerve and fluid supply therefrom.


This life is surely too short to solve the uses of the fascia in animal forms. It penetrates even its own finest fibers to supply and assist its gliding elasticity. Just a thought of the completeness and universality in all parts, even though you turn the visions of your mind to follow the infinitely fine nerves. There you see the fascia, and in your wonder and surprise, you exclaim, “Omnipresent in man and all other living beings of the land and sea.”

Other great questions come to haunt the mind with joy and admiration, and we can see all the beauties of life on exhibition by that great power with which the fascia is endowed. The soul of man with all the streams of pure living water seems to dwell in the fascia of his body.

Does it not throw hot shot and shells of thought into man’s famishing chamber of reason, to feel that he has seen by thought the framework of life the dwelling place on which life sojourns? He feels that he can find all disturbing causes of life, the place that diseases germinate and grow, the seeds of disease and death.


As life finds its general nutrient law in the fascia and its nerves, we must connect them to the great source of supply by a cord running the length of the spine, by which all nerves are supplied by the brain. The cord throws out and supplies millions of nerves by which all organs and parts are supplied with the elements of motion, all go to and germinate in that great system, the fascia.

As we dip our cups deeper and deeper into the ocean of thought we feel that the solution of life and health is close to the field of the telescope of our mental searchlights, and soon we will find the road to health so plainly written that the wayfaring man cannot err, though he be a fool.


As the student of anatomy explores the subject under his knife and microscope he easily finds this membrane goes with and covers all muscles, tendons, and fibers, and separates them even to the least fiber. All organs have a covering of this substance, though they may have names to suit the organs, surfaces or parts spoken of.

We write much of the universality of the fascia to impress the reader with the idea that this connecting substance must be free at all parts to receive and discharge all fluids, if healthy to appropriate and use in sustaining animal life, and eject all impurities that health may not be impaired by the dead and poisoning fluids. Thus a knowledge of the universal extent of the fascia is almost imperative, and is one of the greatest aids to the person who seeks cause of disease. He of all men should know more of the fascia and when disease is local or general. That the fascia and its nerves demand his attention first, and on his knowledge of the same, much of his success, and the life of his patients do depend.

Will the student of Osteopathy stop just a moment and see his medical contemporary plow the skin with the needle of his hypodermic syringe. He drives it into and unloads his morphine and other poisonous drugs under the skin, and into the very center of the nerves of the superficial fascia. He produces paralysis of all nerves by this method, just as certainly as if he had put his poison in the cerebellum, but not so certain to produce instantaneous death as to unload in the brain. But if he is faithfully ignorant, he will kill just as certainly at one place as the other, because the poisonous effects can be easily taken to every fiber of the whole body by the nerves and fibers of the fascia.

When you deal with the fascia you deal and do business with the branch offices of the brain, and under the general corporation law, the same as the brain itself, and why not treat it with the same degree of respect?

The doctor of medicine does effectual work through the medium of the fascia. Why not relax, contract, stimulate, and clean the whole system of all diseases by that willing and sufficient power to renovate all parts of the system, from deadly compounds that generate through delay and stagnation of fluids while in the fascia?

Our school is young, but the laws that govern life are as old as the hours of all ages. We may find much that has never been written nor practiced before, but all such discoveries are truths born with the birth of eternity, old as God and as true as life.

The difference between a philosopher and a less powerful thinker is one observes alone, and depends on his own powers of mind to arrive at truth. Another lacks self confidence and mental energy.


If disease is so highly attenuated, so etherial, and penetrable in quality, and multiple in atoms; and a breath of air two quarts or more taken into the lungs fully charged with contagion, how many thousand air cells could be impregnated by one single breath? Say we take a case of measles into a schoolroom of sixty pupils, in a warm and poorly oxygenized atmosphere all day, would not the living gas thrown off from active measles enter and irritate the air cells and close the most irritable cells with the poisonous gas retained for active development in those womb-like departments in the lungs?

Now you have the seeds in thousands of cells, which are as vital and well-supplied by nerves and blood as the womb itself. Would not reason see the development of millions more of the vital beings who get their nourishment from the vitality found in the human fascia, which comes nearer to the surface in the lungs than in any part of the system, except it be the womb.

In proof of the certainty of measles being taken up by the lungs at one breath and caught by the secretions and conveyed to the universal system of fascia to develop the contagion, I will give the case of one of my boys who was sick with cold as I supposed: watering of eyes, cough, fever and headache. He ,was in the country about eight miles from home, and on our return stopped to get his books at a small school house. He ran in, picked up his books that were lying upon the desk, walked the length of the room which was about forty feet, was not there over one-half minute and in just nine days forty-two children broke out with measles. So certain is contagion to be taken up by the nerves and vitalizing fluids of the fascia.

It seems that all the fascia needs to develop anything is to have the seed planted in its arms for construction, the work will be done, labeled, and handed out for inspection by the inspectors of all works.


We must remember as we reason on the power of life which is located in the fascia, that it occupies the whole body, and should we find a local region that is disordered and wish to, we can relieve that part through that local plexus of nerves which controls that organ and division. Thus your attention should be directed to all nerves of that part. Sensory, to modify sensation, blood must not be let run to the part by wild motion, its flow must be gentle to suit the demands of nutrition, otherwise weakness takes the place of strength, then we lose the benefits of the nerves of nutrition, by which strength of all systems of force are kept in action during life.

Suppose the nerves that supply the lungs with motion should stop, the lungs would stop also; suppose they should half stop, the lungs would surely half stop. Now we must reason, if we succeed in relieving lungs, that all kinds of nerves are found in them. The lungs move, thus you find motor; they have feeling, thus the sensory; they grow by nutrition, (thus the nutrient nerves); they move by will, or without it; they have a voluntary and involuntary system; they move in sleep by the involuntary system.

The blood supply comes under the motor system of nerves, and delivers at proper places for the convenience of the nerves of nutrition. The sensory nerves limit the supply of arterial blood to the quantity necessary, as the construction is going on by each successive stroke of the heart. They limit the action of the lungs, receive and expel air in quantities sufficient to keep up purity of the blood, etc. With this foundation we observe if too great action of the motor nerves, shows by breathing too often to be normal, we are admonished to reduce breathing by addressing attention to the sensory nerves of lungs, in order that the blood may pass through the veins, whose irritability has refused to receive the blood, farther than arterial terminals.

So soon as sensation is reduced relaxation of nerve fibers of veins tolerates the passage of venous blood, which is deposited in the spongy portions of the lungs in such quantities as to overcome the activity of the nerves of renovation that accompanies the fascia in its process of ejection of all fluids that have been detained an abnormal time, first in the region of the fascia, then in the arterial and venous circulation. Thus you see what must be done. The veins as channels must carry away all blood as soon as it has deposited its nutrient supplies to the places for which it is constructed, otherwise, by delay vitality by asphyxia is lost to the blood which calls a greater force of the arterial pumps to drive the blood through the parts, ruptures its capillaries and deposits the blood in the mucous membrane; until nerves of the fascia become powerless by surrounding pressure, which causes through the sensory nerves an irritability at the heart, which puts in force all its powers of motion.


Webster’s definition of tumefaction is to swell by any fluids or solids being detained abnormally at any place in the body.

The location may be in, or on any part of the system. No part is exempt, even the brain, heart, lungs, liver, stomach and bowels, bladder, kidneys, uterus, lymphatics, glands, nerves, veins, arteries, skin and all membranes are subject to swellings locally or generally, and with equal certainty they perish and shrink away. If either condition should exist, death to the parts or all of the body will occur from want of nutrition. Instance, in lung fever which begins when swelling is established in lymphatics of lungs, trachea, nostrils, throat and face. At once you see the pressure on the nerve fibers compressed to such degree that they cannot operate excretories of lungs or any part of the pulmonary system. Veins, suspended by irritation of the nerves, arteries are excited to fever heat in action with increase of tumefaction. A tumefying condition undoubtedly marks the beginning of all catarrhal diseases. Its ravages extend to the diseases of the fall and winter seasons. They are so marked on examination that the most skeptical cannot dispute or doubt the truth of this position. In fact he is already committed to a belief that there is something in the fluids that he must purify by the chemical process of drugs.


He looks on, and treats winter diseases with powerful purgatives, sweats, blisters, hot and cold applications with a view to remove congesting fluids. He is not very certain which team of medical power he can depend on. He hitches up many kinds of drugs hoping that a few of them may be able to carry the burden. He bridles his horses with opium, loads them down with purgative powders, and whips them through with castor oil, and for fear they will not travel fast enough he uses as a spur a delicately formed instrument known as the hypodermic syringe. He punches and prods until his horses fall exhausted. Disease and death should give him a large pension for the assistance he has rendered in their service. All is guess work whose father and mother are “tradition and ignorance”. Ignorance of the kind that is wholly inexcusable to anyone but a medical doctor. An Osteopath who does not understand the general law of tumefaction of the whole system is not excusable from the fact that tumefaction, disease and death are so plainly written on the face of all diseases that the blind need not have eyes to see, nor the philosopher any brain to enable him to know this foundation is the highest known truth of all man’s intellectual possessions. Thus by the law of tumefaction, death can and does succumb to its indomitable will. Observations without record will show any fair-minded person that tumefaction does cause death in the majority of cases. But another power is equally as effective in destruction of life which is just the reverse of tumefaction. It destroys by withholding nutrition and all of the fluids; the effect is starvation, shrinkage and death. Thus you see it is equally certain in results. In the one case death ensues from an over plus of inappropriate fluids of nutrition, in the other there is no appropriation to sustain animal life and the patient dies from starvation. The same law holds good in the parts as well as in the whole body.

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