FASCIAL RESEARCH CONGRESS - BERLIN 2018
By Ian Pollard, Soft Tissue Therapist, LSSM ISRM
I recently attended the Fifth International Fascial Research Congress, held at the historic Urania Centre in Berlin on the 14th and 15th November 2018. Having been highly recommended through the Institute for Soft Tissue Therapists, ISRM, I decided to go to further my knowledge in this integral subject for my personal development as a soft tissue therapist, whilst at the same time having a look around this captivating and highly recommended city. I was not disappointed on either front.
Billed as connecting key issues of how fascia research can impact health outcomes, the Congress brought together the latest scientific findings concerning fascia research and their implications for conventional and complementary health care. It was very much an international event with the ‘superstars’ of the fascial world mixing freely with a wide range of practitioners and therapists from all levels of their respective professions.
The keynote presentations covered a range of specific topics; commencing on fairly familiar ground with the evolution of human walking and running with regard to the ITB and plantar fascia, they soon delved deep into the matrix biology of fascia, interstitium, lymphatic system, biophysics of the human spine, neuromuscular motor function, neurology of spine pain and pain and movement control.
As a first timer to this level of proceedings it was quickly apparent how significant the keynote speakers were as the stars and celebrities of the fascial world, with some being greeted with an almost cult-like status; notably, Daniel Lieberman, Melody Swartz, Carla and Antonio Stecco, Paul Hodges, Robert Schleip and Jean Claude Guimberteau were for me the stand out speakers. The late Leon Chaitow was honoured with a fitting tribute and his daughter Sasha gave a moving address on how his work and legacy will be continued through the Fascial Research Congress and the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.
What the Congress demonstrated was how biology and biomechanics are inherently linked. How advances in fascial research have heightened our understanding of how fascia facilitates the whole body to function and its significance to physiological and psychological interaction. How the role of fascial research has been instrumental in bringing together fields previously isolated and working independently.
The daily format saw four keynote plenary lectures in the main auditorium in the morning, with two sessions of multiple scientific abstract presentations in the afternoon spread throughout the congress venues various lecture halls. Coffee and lunch breaks afforded ample time to explore the other activities and exhibits, visit the associated sponsor’s stands and of course network with some of the several hundred other delegates from countries and continents around the world; I teamed up with a Romanian physiotherapist form Bucharest, a Californian body worker from San Diego, and chatted with an osteopath from 20 minutes down the road from where I live in Dorset!
Of the exhibitions, the abstract poster displays detailed a wide range of current fascial research, findings and conclusions, which added viewable detail and context to the lecture room presentations. Photographic displays dedicated to art in the context of fascial research were equally intriguing and beautiful, whilst images of fascial dissections were definitely not for the squeamish. There was a palpation lab where you could test your palpation skills, a yoga room and a treatment room, although the latter seemed more in use by a few weary delegates having an afternoon nap.
The standout exhibit for me was the Plastination exhibit, with a room full of ‘plastinated’ human specimens from the Human Fascial Net Plastination Project, some of which were on display for the first time. Using a revolutionary method of cadaver tissue preservation the Plastination Project has been created to preserve actual anatomical specimens in life-size form for study and education. A truly impressive and graphic study of myofascial anatomy, with body parts galore just an arm’s length away - sadly no photos were allowed.
The Congress concluded with a summary and awards session, followed by a spectacular ‘Fascial Illuminated’ presentation of photographic images and videos on the main auditorium screen. The 90-minute presentation aired some of the latest microscopic imagery into the fascial world of connective tissue and proved to be quite brilliant as both an artistic masterpiece and an exploration of human facial form.
I decided not to join the Congress evening river cruise dinner and disco party, but instead headed for the Berlin Philharmonic for a brilliant Classical Jazz concert. Whilst enjoying the musical masterclass I was equally captivated by a highly energised violinist whose balletic movements seemed to epitomise perfect fascial harmony; fascia was obviously getting to me…!
My trip also presented the opportunity to attend a pre-congress full day Anatomy Trains workshop, entitled ‘Myofascial Continuities in Assessment & Practice’, presented by Thomas Myers himself. Mixing the latest theory with practical demonstration and hands on work, the workshop combined myofascial anatomy with how the body incorporates the ‘Anatomy Trains’ lines for structure, posture and function. It explored the meaning of his twelve myofascial meridians in stability and movement and the value of global over local treatment for chronic injury and compensation. We were encouraged not to think of some six hundred plus different muscles, but of one connective muscle of some six hundred plus different pockets.
Much of the Congress was highly specific and technical, but overall my general awareness and deeper understanding of the complex structure and importance of fascia, and most importantly how I will approach my work as a result, has been immediate and will no doubt be far reaching over the years ahead. As an investment in knowledge I’m sure it will prove extremely beneficial and an experience I will refer back to for many years to come.
The sixth International Fascial Research Congress takes place in 2021 in Montreal, Canada.