First of Nine: Tensegrity Blog

Portland, Oregon's Cancer Survivorship and Bodywork Zine by Compassion Arts PDX, LLC

Myofascial Mechanoreceptors

Bodywork is a form of kinesthetic communication. We speak to the nervous system, we speak to emotion, we speak to memory, always in open, two-way dialogue. The work is equal parts listening and assertion, finding the ebb and flow in the fascial recoil held in it’s inherent plasticity.

There is a communication with the tensegrity architecture of our myofascial system through mindful engagement with the four types of fascial mechanoreceptors, each with their own language and means of sensory communication. Here is my summary of Robert Schleip’s current research on mechanoreceptors found in fascia, including info from the first section of his DVD, The Nature of Fascia.

Massage photography by Hamid Shibata Bennett, LMT, CAMT
Sometimes I get to work with professional models! The lovely Rebecca Palmer receiving a massage. Photography by Hamid Shibata Bennett

Fascial Mechanoreceptors

Allow myself to introduce myself…. the mechanoreceptors of fascia… Golgi Tendon Organs, Ruffini, Pacini and Interstitial!

The Golgi Tendon Organs are classified as Type I receptors. They’re common to the myotendinous junctions, ligaments, joint capsules and attachments of aponeurosis, flat, broad sheets of connective tissue.

To have yourself a chat with the Golgi Tendon Organs, one engages in slow, deep, present, longitudinal shearing at the myotendinous junctions. This is the steadfast patience of fascial melt found in structurally integrative techniques. Techniques, such as Rolfing, often use client-intitiated movement to enhance proprioceptive feedback. Find a depth and a pace in the tissue’s viscosity and follow with the breath. This has been observed to create a repeatable decrease in muscular tone.

Type II mechanoreceptors include the Pacini and Ruffini receptors.

The Pacini receptors are found in the myotendinous junctions, along with the Golgi Tendon Organs. They also hang in the deep capsular layers of joints, in the spinal ligaments and in investing muscular tissue, such as the most superficial layer of the deep cervical fascia. You can find that depth, eh?

The Pacini mechanoreceptors dig the rapid pressure changes of motion. They are stimulated by vibration and, according to Robert Schleip, get bored rather easily. They inform our sense of proprioception, tuning us into the kinesthetic feedback needed for range of motion, from subtle to complex movement. Chiropractic work directly target the Pacini corpuscles, as does any creative movement and vibration.

The Ruffini mechanoreceptors differ from the Golgi Tendon complex in their direction of engagement. Where the Golgi’s have a hankering for longitudinal shearing, the Ruffini endings perk up through sustained, transverse shearing, across the grain of muscular fiber direction. This has been found to reach the entire autonomic nervous system, no matter where on the body we engage. Heart rate, digestion, respiration rate… We can reach all of that with our bodywork.

The Ruffini receptors are located in the ligaments found in the peripheral joints, dura mater, the outer capsular layers and in tissues that we stretch when we’re melting our fascia in the morning. Those feels so good to move and be moved this way spots, that inhibit the sympathetic nervous system, our fight or flight response.

The Interstitial sisters. Type III and IV mechanoreceptors. The most abundant sensory receptor in the human body. More numerous than the sum of the sensory receptors in the eyes, nose, mouth, ears and skin, including all Type I and Type II fascial mechanoreceptors. Yeah, they’re kinda important!

The interstitial receptors are found just about everywhere, including inside our bones! The highest concentration of these are in the periosteum, on the outer surface of bones. They respond to rapid and sustained pressure changes. 10% are Type III, low threshold pressure units, covered in a thin myelin sheath. They respond to the lightest of feather touches. Type IV receptors are unmyelinated high threshold pressure units, making up the other 90%. Stimulating the Interstitials are known to create change in vasodilation and the autonomic functions, such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, salivation and perspiration. We’re still trying to understand the full impact of these receptors in the body. Some are pain receptors and others are also thought to inform the sensations of structural positioning and movement. Acupuncture is thought to engage these receptors, snagging them in the subtle twisting of the needle.

Sparse, but fun liner notes from Robert Schleip’s DVD, The Nature of Fascia. Note that Pacini is misspelled! Photo by Hamid Shibata Bennett

It’s time to expand our mechanosensing vocabulary with a pacing, patience and playfulness that engages the dance found in intentionally working with these receptors. I’ve been playing with these ideas for awhile now and have been seeing some fun changes in clients. And, I’m ready to share the work with our massage and bodywork community. If you’re interested in exploring more, contact me. There is so much to discover in our bodywork! Get your fascia on!

And, don’t forget to enter First of Nine’s first contest! Enter for a chance to win music and bodywork! Check it out here!

Hamid : ) • •

Just finding First of Nine: Tensegrity Blog? Deep dive with massage articles, photography, video and music in Portland, Oregon’s Cancer Survivorship and Bodywork Zine!!

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Bonus video!

I had the pups with me at the office yesterday. So, I cobbled a quick video using iMovie on the iPad 2. Here it is… Hamid’s Doggies at Earth Body.

24 comments on “Myofascial Mechanoreceptors

  1. Hans Quistorff
    September 23, 2011

    Interesting! I often use Oster hand vibrators while doing my work.
    “The Pacini mechanoreceptors dig the rapid pressure changes of motion. They are stimulated by vibration and, according to Robert Schleip, get bored rather easily. ”
    It does seem to increase the amount of change that happens during a session.

    • Hans, the Pacini corpuscles are my favorite at the moment… Plenty of tonus change happens with vibration techniques, variability, improvisation and movement. I have been playing with standing vibration work, watching a glass of water on the table to get a visual of the vibration sent from twanging a hallucis tendon.

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  3. Woolf
    October 1, 2011

    There are plenty of questions over the accuracy of your post here on the Linked In sites you shared this on. Would be interested to see your response.

    • The article is based on Robert Schleip, PhD’s work… a rough summary that only begins to scratch the surface of the subject. Have you read through his .pdf titled “Fascial mechanoreceptors and their potential role in deep tissue manipulation”? Notice, his title includes the word potential.

      The article is also based on the first section of Robert Schleip’s DVD from 2008, The Nature of Fascia: The Latest news from connective tissue research. It’s a fairly low-production value, but the information is invaluable. No one is saying that this is the answer to life the universe, the human body and everything. However, there is a growing body of research that builds on our current knowledge of the body in an expansive way. A way that I feel enhances communication with the the body. And, it’s a way that has not been taught in my local massage, physical therapy, chiropractic, Rolfing or medical community.

      Here is the link again, where there is far more in-depth information than my piddly lil book report of an article.

      So, I’m not going to bother replying to every little statement or question. Folks like Schleip, Donald Ingber, Dr. Jean Claude Guimberteau, Gil Hedley Tom Meyers and have been doing some wonderful research on the subject of fascia that happen to be changing the way I work with the body and I’m gonna share that. None of the new research has to contradict 20 to 30 year old views of how the body works, but can add to it. Reminds of me a Star Trek convention and a debate over which which captain of the Enterprise is best. Lotta ego can be wrapped up in in the bodywork field.

      So, yeah… awesome to question new information. And, I invite anyone to go on to follow the provided links and establish any relevance for themselves. There is a reason why amazing scientific minds are coming together and holding the Third International Fascial Research Congress in 2012. Our view of how intricately the body knows itself is changing. With this new knowledge, it should be changing our work too.

      Who’s gonna go?!

      When it comes down to it, no matter the scientific thought we groove on, we all just gotta trust our hands, trust our hearts, trust our intention… and, we’ll make a difference in someone’s life.

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  10. Pam Makie
    July 16, 2012

    Thanks, Hamid….will re-read….doing my first myofascial release workshop in Sept. Walt is teaching. Pam

    • Pam… I have a feeling that Walt’s class will be quite eye opening! Let me know how it goes! I’d sure enjoy meeting him one of these days.

      • waltfritz
        January 15, 2015

        I’m a little late to the party, but same here, Hamid!

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Compassion Arts PDX, LLC

Hamid Shibata Bennett, LMT, CAMT (OBMT #301)
Advanced massage therapy and bodywork
3810 SE Belmont ST
Portland, Oregon 97214

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