Interstitial and Glial Systems
Key concept: Evolving from a fusion of myofascial release, craniosacral therapy, visceral
manipulation, and lymphatic drainage massage, working directly within the spaces between
structures may assist interstitial tissues. The spaces between the gross body organs and
structures are where we work with the 'tensegrity' of the whole body.
An artist's concept of the interstitium organ as connective tissue with fluid-filled compartments functioning like bubble wrap. The fluid is the probable source of lymphatic fluids, and compressive forces can compromise its flow. This structure may be what is influenced by mobilizing soft tissues and fascia.
A group of scientists led by Petros Benias garnered medical attention discovering a "new organ of the human body" within the abdominal cavity. In studying visceral organs, they tried a novel
method of freezing biopsy tissue rather than using the standard fixative method, which by nature
completely dehydrates tissue. By utilizing this alternative way to prepare connective tissue
slides, they preserved peritoneal (fascia) cells in their regular "inflated state." (Traditionally,
fascia always appeared as flat lines in connective tissue samples.) These scientists described the
anatomy and histology of macroscopic, fluid-filled space within and between tissues called
"human interstitium." They realized these compartments are found extensively throughout the
body, beneath the skin, within the gut lining, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles, and joined
together to form a network of strong yet flexible protein fibers.
But these researchers caught flack for making their claim. Many scientists, researchers, and
practitioners have studied connective tissue for decades. There is nothing new about the
'existence' of fascia. Benias' team described what to them was a novel tissue. In actuality, what they discovered was a novel way to examine fascia, a profound comparison between living and
dead tissue. Living tissue holds fluids, whereas dead tissue is desiccated. They, in essence,
discovered a profound visual description of the makeup and behaviors of fascia in its living
hydrated form. The cellular structure of these tissues is like a "dynamic layer of bubble wrap" surrounding structures and organs, where fluid fills the "bubbles" and drains in and around cellular spaces. The fluid in these sacs may be a primary source for lymph fluids that travel through thelymphatic system and a source of blood plasma. This discovery suggests that much of fascia tissue is fluid-based, possibly giving rise to a fourth circulatory system that transports both
nutrients and disease pathogens.
Historically, manual therapists assume deep invasive or actively mobilizing pressure was needed
to reach deep structures. This new tissue theory, in contrast, may explain why profound and
lasting changes are seen in bodywork with gentle, non-invasive, sustained touch contact. The
mechanism for improvements of function may result from mobilizing fluids of such exquisite
tissues that afford them adequate time to rehydrate and self-correct in cellular expansion. When
described as a method that "holds space and waits for tissue response," Craniosacral therapy may
be a therapeutic waiting for the tissues to expand the cellular terrain while holding the margins of
the restrictions contained in the organ or the surrounding tissues. The concepts of "listening and
following tissues" and applying sustained non-invasive stretch may be a function of following
the flow of waters and assisting a widening of structural spaces. We believe this to be the cause
of the release of protective retraction. Perhaps that idea can further the scientific inquiry of the
mechanisms we observe through the CST and other non-invasive methods used in Bodywork.
Blending interstitial tissue work with craniosacral therapy, myofascial release, visceral methods,
and lymphatic drainage have given clinical access to the foundation of Bodywork performed at
Special Therapies, Inc. Benias' and his team's discovery strengthens the argument that the clients
we treat with bodywork methods should be approached as vessels containing water rather than an
inanimate, aggregate structure of flesh. Clients, especially babies, should be handled more like
segments of an orange – small juicy bits that are soft and pliable held together by a
Structure and Distribution of an Unrecognized Interstitium in Human Tissues