First of Nine: Tensegrity Blog

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

Tensegrity principle and gene expression

I found an abstract on the tensegrity principle. They attached hybrid EMG and MMG probes to the tensor fasciae latae and middle deltoid. When they massaged the peroneals, tensor fasciae latae showed mechanical activity. When they massaged brachioradialis, middle deltoid showed mechanical and electrical activity.

“Based on a tensegrity principle, direct or indirect connections between fascia or muscles which stretch the aponeurosis or intermuscular septum may allow the transfer of tension over long distances, without loss of muscle force produced during rest and activity… It was concluded that there was an electrical as well as a mechanical response of muscle connected indirectly by structural elements with the muscle being massaged indicating an application for the tensegrity principle in massage therapy.”

From the paper, Tensegrity principle in massage demonstrated by electro- and mechanomyography.

Now is that compelling, or what? We can create mechanical response distant from where our hands touch. And, sometimes (in this limited study, 50% of the time), we create mechanical and electrical response in distant musculature.


I wonder what would happen if we stuck hybrid EMG and MMG probes on all the major muscle groups and proximated a big toe. Wonder what would light up? Anyone know how to fund a study?

Yoga with Alicia Crockett
Engaging mindful proprioception with Alicia Crockett. Photography by Hamid Shibata Bennett

I’d like to put a call out to the massage therapy community. How can our bodywork be gentler, on both therapist and client, while engaging the body with rich sensory stimulation? We know the efficacy of massage. There’s so much documentation out there. This stuff works. Period. However, bodywork doesn’t have to be a painful experience. One can find levels of efficacy with grace and ease. And, without hurting our clients or ourselves in the quest for deeper tissue.

Awhile back, I saw this spiffy National Geographic special on the fight science behind mixed martial arts. They had Tito Ortiz, Bas Rutten and Randy Couture on the show! Legends!

The exercise physiologist on the program was saying, after about 10 seconds of exertion, the human being becomes tired and lactic acid levels raise. So, they get “The Natural” Randy Couture to grapple with this fella for a solid minute. After a full 60 second rear-naked choke hold, exerting maximum contractile effort, they checked his lactic acids levels and compared it to the pre-exertion sample.

Couture’s lactic acid levels lowered. The docs were bewildered.

Turns out, the MMA fighter used a combination of breathing, relaxation and choosing which muscle fibers fired and for how long through a continuous series of micro movements. He was able to keep applying the hold, becoming more relaxed through his moment to moment monitoring of his physiologic state. That’s some proprioceptive awareness!

By golly, I bet we could apply that same thought to our bodywork. Except, our intention is very different than the MMA fighter (please don’t put your clients in sleeper holds!). We work with the slowing of the autonomic nervous system with the use of therapeutic velocities.

Our understanding of the body is finding a newfound flourishing, a renascence of poetry, artistry and curiosity. It’s worth exploring the new science of fascial research. According to Donald Ingber, PhD and smart fella over at Harvard, through mechanotransduction, exercise and physical therapies can effect the biochemistry of cells, including changes to gene expression. Frack me! That bit of info changes the game of bodywork!

I found one study on massage affecting gene expression of the gluteofemoral adipose tissue. Butt fat? Really? All that funding and they choose to study genetic changes in butt fat? Bygones.

After 6 weeks of massage on the gluteofemoral adipose tissue, they saw changes in gene expression.

“Conclusion: The protocol of mechanical massage used in the study promoted noticeable changes in the expression of genes involved in metabolic pathways.”

From Impact of a Mechanical Massage on Gene Expression Profile and Lipid Mobilization in Female Gluteofemoral Adipose Tissue.


I think we can do better. I think we can find more relevance for every day folk. How about we study peripheral neuropathy or birth weight or post-traumatic stress injuries or cancer survivorship? Let’s see solid research get us out of the pseudoscience of the past.

Bodyworlds was a kick. Have you checked it out at OMSI yet? If you work with the human being, the sensory experience will fire your axons, light up your dendrites and enliven your multi-dimensional understanding of the human experience. So, tune up your interoception and track the subtleties of the hepatic flexure! Feel the tug of sternohyioid catch your swallow! If you’re jazzed about the body, clap your hands!

So, medical community… The massage scene of Portlandia is just waiting for ya. Let’s see how far the healing goes.

C’mon… Put a bird on it!

Hamid 🙂

Bonus video!

I debuted this short film at my first Myofascial Mechanoreceptors class in November of 2011. It features the exquisite violin of Marcia Muench. And, I plunk around on the guitar too.

Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau says we are an arachnid world inside. So, I spent all summer letting my yard go, finding illustrations of tensegrity in lovely morning light. Music was recorded on the iPad 2 and the video was shot with the trusty Panasonic GF1. It was cobbled together in iMovie on the 24” iMac.

This video is entitled Tensegrity! Dig it!

iPad users, tap on the blank space above if the video does not show. Or, tap here

10 comments on “Tensegrity principle and gene expression

  1. Hans Quistorff
    December 20, 2011

    Taking up the challenge of the approximation of the big toe. As I outlined at the head and neck are supported by reflexes of the big toe.
    Client with torticollis, head turned right with head pulled down toward the left chest. Right big toe was planter-flexed and abducted under the next toe. To get lasting changes I had to work the tensegrity from the big toe up the fascia femoris and the lateral line while I worked the SCM and scalines down on the left side of the neck.
    Over time the head came up and the right foot began to track straight ahead.
    Hans Albert Quistorff, LMP
    Antalgic Posture Pain Specialist

    • Hans… Sweet tracking from toe to noggin! Reminds me of following bobcat trail in winter snow down the trunk of an overturned tree.

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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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