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  • William E. Leigh III

Is the Superficial Fascia the Anatomical Foundation for the Meridian System of TCM?

Stecco, C., & Day, J. A. (2010). The fascial manipulation technique and its biomechanical model: a guide to the human fascial system. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, 3(1), 38–40. Retrieved from


This is a short article that discussed the material of a workshop given by The Fascial Manipulation Association, at the Second International Fascia Research Congress (Vrije University, Amsterdam; October 27–30, 2009). The workshop was titled, “The Fascial Manipulation Technique and its Biomechanical Model: A Guide to the Human Fascial System”.

What I found interesting was the clear description of superficial fascia. This article discusses how superficial fascia exists between two layeres of loose connective tissue. It is believed that fascia is a highly conductive material. It conducts nerve impulses, light, and vibration. Loose connective tissue is believed to be more of an insulator in properties. Therefore, the highly conductive superficial fascia covers the whole exterior physiology and exists between two layers of insulating material. It is easy to hypothesize that there exists communication across this layer of fascia that is similar to the system of meridians found in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Quote from the article:

“Our studies revealed the constant presence of a membranous layer of connective tissue of variable thickness within the subcutaneous tissue. We propose that two fat layers (superficial and deep) exist in the subcutaneous tissue and that a membranous layer, to which the term “superficial fascia” should be correctly applied, separates these two fat layers. Retinacula connect this superficial fascia layer to the skin and to the deep fascia, forming a three-dimensional network between the fat lobules. The superficial fascia is homologous to the cutaneous muscle layer (panniculus carnosus) found in other mammals. Indeed, in humans, muscular fibers can also be found in the layer of the superficial fascia, particularly in the neck (platysma muscle), the face (superficial muscular aponeurotic system), the anal region (external anal sphincter), and the scrotum (dartos).

The superficial fascia layer itself is formed by loosely packed, interwoven collagen fibers mixed with abundant elastic fibers. Many nerve fibers can be highlighted within the superficial fascia, and this may indicate participation in the exteroceptive system. Thicker in the trunk than in the limbs, this layer becomes thinner toward the extremities of the limbs. The superficial fascia adheres to the deep fascia over bony prominences and at some ligamentous folds. In some regions, the superficial fascia splits, forming special compartments around major subcutaneous veins and lymphatic vessels, and extending fibrous septa that attach to the vessel wall. Functionally, the superficial fascia may play a role in the integrity of the skin and in supporting subcutaneous structures (particularly veins and lymphatic vessels) by ensuring their patency. In accordance with these anatomical findings, the implications of the superficial fascia in lymphatic and venous return mechanisms were discussed.”

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