October 1, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Whether a teen or an adult, cellulite is the bane of all women. If fact, one statistic I came across claimed that the percentage of cellulite in women compared to men is 90:10, respectively. That’s estrogen for you! On top of that, many women feel so much cultural pressure to look a certain way that changes in appearance can become quite distressing. What’s a girl to do?
Well, this discussion is going to take us beyond the aesthetics of appearance to consider how cellulite is actually a visible clue of deeper levels of change in the body related to health and function. Choosing to stay healthy is a powerful motivator which can help us manage cellulite in a way that goes beyond vanity towards improving both our appearance and our health! We begin by discussing four key factors in the development of cellulite: collagen, fat, estrogen, and circulation.
The Big Four: Collagen, Fat, Estrogen, and Circulation
Collagen is a chief constituent of the connective tissue matrix (ECM or fascia) that forms the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Cellulite is the adipose fatty tissue component of the fascia which lies between the skin and the muscles. While the matrix gives the body its shape and allows structures under the skin to slide past each other, fatty adipose tissue serves to insulate the body from cold or heat, stores energy and nutrients, and cushions the body and organs against impact. Estrogen, a hormone circulated in the blood, has been implicated in the formation of cellulite, either due to a lack of it or an excess of it in the body. Aging and obesity lead to reduced microcirculation of blood, depriving the ECM 0f necessary nutrients for the adequate production of collagen fibers to support the structure of the matrix. Dehydration and thinning of the matrix causes the skin to lose its elasticity and tone, allowing underlying fatty deposits to expand and push up against the skin’s surface, creating cellulite’s signature orange peel appearance.
Naming Cellulite as a Problem
According to Scientific American, cellulite first began to be considered a problem in the 1970s. Research has linked it to smoking, stress hormones, endocrine imbalance, genetics, contraceptives, edema, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor diet. We could probably add exposure to estrogenic chemical compounds to the list too.
Unfortunately, rising numbers of young people are succumbing to obesity due to the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.). The appearance of cellulite at younger and younger ages signals dysfunction in the body related to excess intake of fat, endocrine dysfunction, poor circulation, and loss of collagen, something that should alarm us all.
Today, the cultural anxiety surrounding cellulite has fueled an explosion of products and treatments to address the condition. To counteract the breakdown of tissue in the body, increase circulation, and balance hormone production, dermatologists, researchers, and clinicians suggest the following approaches:
• Increase circulation to the area – cupping and gua sha are very effective
• Flush toxins – lymphatic drainage
• Strengthen collagen – exercise, walking, dancing, stretching, vitamin C
• Reduce dietary fat — add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, water
As they say, knowledge is power. Hopefully these tips will help you manage cellulite by addressing the underlying conditions that promote it.
To your health!
August 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Since beginning this blog nearly a year ago, I have written several articles about scar tissue, fascia , liquid crystalline properties of living tissue, the connective tissue matrix, post-surgical issues like trauma, pain and adhesions, and acupuncture in connective tissue remodeling.
At present, I am writing a book on the subject of scar tissue and I need your input.
What information would you like to see covered?
What questions do you have?
Are you a lay person interested in self-treatment protocals to ease discomfort associated with scar tissue?
Are you a practitioner who is looking for helpful treatment approaches?
Your comments, contributions, and questions are eagerly awaited!
June 11, 2012 § 23 Comments
In my clinical experience, it is common for patients to report discomfort associated with scar tissue, especially following a surgical procedure. While the formation of scar tissue is a natural function of healing, it can also become a chronic source of pain and discomfort that can last for years.
Recently, at the 3rd Research Fascia Congress, Jean-Claude Gimberteau presented an amazing video of in vivo scar tissue. The video provided a clear visual of tissue and fascial disorganization associated with scar tissue. Viewing these powerful images, as well as coming to a deeper understanding of the process of tissue repair, have helped me to become more effective in working with scar tissue.
Typically, when I assess scar tissue, I gently palpate the area around the scar and the scar itself. I look for areas where the tissue is able to move freely or for areas where the tissue has become thickened and dense underneath the scar, or where the scar is being pulled into the body. As I attempt to mobilize the area, I ask the patient to describe where they feel sensation. Many times they report feeling pain, tension, or tugging in another part of the body, away from the scar. This is when they might experience an “aha!” moment, coming to understand that the scar may be somehow linked to another area in the body where they have been experiencing tension or pain. This demonstrates how scars can continue to alter over time to effect the internal landscape of the body, long after the scar appears to be healed.
This image is of a patient who underwent breast reduction (lollipop) surgery, twelve years ago. It is a very invasive surgery and results in large areas of scar tissue. The patient’s chief complaint was anxiety. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, stagnation in the chest can create heat-induced anxiety. I was curious to see if her scar tissue was blocking the flow of qi, blood, and lymph through the upper body. Palpation demonstrated that there was a good deal of fascial restriction along the scars with a grayish-green discoloration of the skin between both breasts (stagnation).
The image shows how I set the acupuncture needles along the scar, at an angle. Then, I gently tugged on the needles, mobilizing the underlying tissue until the fascia begin to release. I also used glass cups to lift the underlying fascia and increase the flow of blood, lymph, and qi through the area. In the image you can see how the circulation increased as the grey-greenish area began to pink-up. The patient had a good result. Her anxiety lessened considerably and her breathing improved. She was now able to expand her diaphragm more easily upon inhalation, allowing more flow through the upper body.
Have you ever experienced residual pain around a scar, long after it had healed? Did you receive treatment for the scar? Would you consider acupuncture to help mobilize a scar?
June 4, 2012 § 11 Comments
I recently had the privilege of attending the 3rd Fascia Research Congress, held in Vancouver, B.C., March 28-30, 2012. It was a gathering of academicians, scientists, and clinicians who are dedicated to researching fascia, the connective tissue matrix under the skin which links to nerves, veins, tendons, adipose, ligaments, bone, and muscle. You’ve heard me reference this tissue system before because it is where all the exciting things happen in the body!
Fascia functions to provide a smooth gliding surface for body structures so that they can quickly and easily move across each other. It also supports tissue hydration and tissue remodeling. Two topics that really peaked my interest at the congress were fluid dynamics and post-surgical scar treatment because they are intimately involved in maintaining health and wellness.
Fluid dynamics play a critical role in regulating collagen and elastic fibers and microfibrils, hyaluronan, proteoglycans, and glycoproteins. Fluid flow within this matrix functions to regulate cellular hydration, nutrient transport, tissue function, lymphatic flow, and cell-to-cell communication. Fluid stagnation, as seen in edema, is inflammatory and begins to remodel tissues in a negative way, leading to fibrosis (an abnormal development of excess connective tissue).
Scar tissue can dramatically change the internal environment of the connective tissue matrix and its fluid dynamics through the disorganization of tissues and the cascade of inflammatory mediators (biochemicals). The formation and ramifications of adhesions associated with chronic inflammation or surgery were also discussed and the take away piece from these lectures was the importance of soft tissue mobilization, as soon as possible post-surgery, to effect the best possible repair.
If you have ever experienced edema, adhesions, or chronic inflammatory conditions, was there a particular therapy that helped you to recover? Would you care to share your experience?
If you’d like to know how you can keep your fascia system flexible, check out this great blog: Nicole Rae Fitness
May 30, 2012 § 22 Comments
When I first became acquainted with Mae-Wan Ho and James Oschman‘s theory that the human body’s connective tissue matrix is liquid crystalline in nature, I was completely intrigued. This made so much sense to me since I was already aware of the body’s bioelectrical capacity to move blood and transfer energy or Qi between body systems and the extremities via acupoints along meridian pathways. I had also been exploring the use of microcurrent and colored light therapy to address chronic pain in my clinic. All these modalities proved effective because the human body is bioelectric as well biochemical in nature. However, at that point in my career, I was applying treatment according to the principles of meridian theory even though there were no coherent scientific theories in place to explain how energy could travel between the skin and the muscles—the first principle of meridian theory in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The chief reason that it was so difficult to identify the mechanism of action is that the meridian system is not an actual physical structure. Instead, meridians behave like a series of interconnected energetic pathways.
Eventually, as scientists began to research acupoints found along the meridians pathways, they noticed that the points and the meridians each possessed distinctive electrical properties when compared with surrounding skin. This finding correlated with research into the properties of the body’s connective tissue matrix which gives the body, body tissues, organs and cells their shapes. Many years ago it was discovered that the proteins making up the structural components of cells and tissues were closely aligned in an array of atoms. Szent-Gyorgyi, an early pioneer in connective tissue research, predicted that this molecular array would enable electrons to mobilize and form an energy continua that would belong to the whole system. He also suggested that with adequate hydration, the cytoskeleton of each cell would behave like a semiconductor, able to support high-speed communication across the body through the conduction of electrons, protons, and other subatomic entities across the collagenous protein network. The discovery of these properties led to the conclusion that the connective tissue matrix behaved like liquid-crystalline tissue and was the likely means by which energy and information moved instantaneously across the body. This working theory may well be the mechanism of action by which the transfer of energy occurs in acupuncture’s meridian and acupoint system.
In the image below you can observe the molecular order of liquid crystals in organic tissue. Mae-Wan Ho and David P. Knight identify the following properties inherent to liquid crystals and suggest that these also apply to the body’s connective tissue matrix:
- liquid crystal molecules have an orientational order
- liquid crystals are malleable, flexible, and responsive
- individual crystals can flow or have the properties of a solid
- liquid crystal molecules respond when exposed to changes in hydration, pressure, shear forces, and temperature
- exposure to electric and magnetic fields can cause changes in orientation
As a holistic practitioner, I feel it is extremely important for me to stay open to novel ways of understanding the human body and its systems in order to remain progressive in my chosen field of holistic medicine. Since change is the one real constant that we can depend on, how do you stay current with changes in your field?