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Anatomy Trains - Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists

by Thomas W Myers

listed in bodywork

[Image: Anatomy Trains - Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists]

After reading this book you will never again confuse facial with fascial. For this book is primarily about this ubiquitous tissue known as fascia or connective tissue. To be precise, it is about myofascia, i.e., the unit made of muscle tissue and its wrapping and covering of connective tissue. Nevertheless, it stresses fascia a lot more than muscle and the first chapter, 'The world according to fascia', is a comprehensive study of the still little known and understood role of fascia in posture and movement. This chapter is rather technical and the author cautiously says that "the more clinically-minded may wish to skip the antipasti and go straight on to the main course which begins in Chapter 3". I wouldn't recommend it, as fascia is fascinating.

The author, Tom Myers, is well qualified for the job. A leading Rolfer and a member of the Life Science Faculty for the Rolf Institute since 1987, he studied with Ida Rolf and Moshe Feldenkrais and has practised Structural Integration for more than 20 years. He is also a well-known teacher in the fields of Science of Movement and Structural Bodywork. His experience in teaching shows in the book which, in spite of his complex subject, is never boring or stilted, thanks to Myers' informal style and often humorous tone. His enthusiasm for the fascial 'stuff' is contagious and there is no known cure for it.

The book is user-friendly, loaded with beautiful illustrations while the main discursive text is supplemented with 'boxed' text which includes information on application of the concepts and relevant issues. The type of information contained in these boxes is marked with icons, a bit in the fashion of 'For dummies' books. The quality of the illustrations alone would justify using Anatomy Trains as a coffee-table book. But it is primarily a text-book where any bodyworker can find something to satisfy his/her curiosity, whether to learn or revise anatomy, or pick-up hints on palpation or manual techniques. There is also, and it is rare enough to be mentioned, a whole chapter on 'bodyreading' which describes a method of postural analysis of standing.

Having said that, Anatomy Trains is not just a book on what is currently known about the fascial web and its importance in bodywork. It is above all an exposition of Myers' personal and original concept of myofascial continuities or lines through which strain, tension, fixation, compensations, and movements can be distributed. Although the concept of myofascial chains is not recent in Europe since the discoveries, in 1947, by Françoise Mézières of Muscular Chains, Anatomy Trains represents, to my knowledge, the first Anglo-American attempt to construct such linkages. The author mentions the chaînes musculaires of Leopold Busquet who trained with Mézières but, sadly, his chaînes have nothing to do with those of Mézières. I would love to be able to introduce Tom Myers to the original chaînes musculaires à la Mézières.

Myers invites us to learn, in a playful way, how to trace these myofascial lines. To do so, he uses a railway metaphor where 'Anatomy Trains' describes the whole system of 11 myofascial lines; an 'express' is a multi-joint muscle; a 'local', a single-joint muscle; a 'track,' a fascial or myofascial element in a line; a 'station', a muscle attachment; a 'roundhouse', a bone where many muscles meet; and so on. Displaying such a fondness for all things related to railway, if Myers were to replace Byers as Transport Secretary, our transport system might improve. But perhaps not, as Myers tolerates too many 'derailments' i.e., breaks in the linkage of myofascial continuities.

Regrettably, Myers mixes his metaphors by introducing the term 'myofascial meridian' which describes an interlinked series of 'myofascial continuities' or connections between two adjacent and aligned structures. This term is an odd one as it does not belong to the railway world; it 'brakes' your train of thoughts and makes you lose track, especially so as it is usually used in reference to acupuncture. But Myers precises that 'myofascial meridians' should not be confused with acupuncture meridians. His meridians "have more to do with the meridians of latitude and longitude that girdle the earth."

The author gives us the rules of the game of tracing myofascial meridian which, in a nutshell, "must proceed in a consistent direction and depth, via fascial or mechanical connections." Tom Myers lays down the rules; he also breaks them ('derailments') with disarming candour. Explaining the Lateral Line (one of the meridians) he quotes somewhere TH Huxley who said "There is nothing so sad as the destruction of a beautiful theory by an ugly fact". But Tom Myers is not so easily put off track and, undeterred by the derailments in his system, carries on tracing his lines. Having set the rules, the author invites his readers to have a go at trying to construct additional trains not explored in his book, as the myofascial continuities he has described are not exhaustive. In fact, if, as he says, "a tug in the fascial net is communicated across the entire fascial net like a snag in a sweater, or a pull in the corner of an empty woven hammock", then the possibilities are infinite. In this fact resides one of the weaknesses of Myers theory.

From my point of view, some errors emerge in Tom Myers' book. For example, some of his 'locals'(muscles crossing only one joint) are in fact 'expresses' (muscles crossing more than one joint) such as the soleus which 'jump' over the talus, and the multifidus and rotatores which are mostly polyarticular muscles. Also, Myers says that the longus capitis and longus colli "are unique among the muscles of the neck in their ability to counteract neck hyperextension" and "play a large role in maintaining the proper alignment of the head, neck and upper back". Thus, in case of hyperextended upper cervicals, "they must be reawakened and tonified". This is to forget that these muscles tend to pull the head forward and to increase the cervico-thoracic lordosis and that they always suffer from hypertonicity. In the chapter describing the Superficial Back Line, the author goes into "a long-winded" (his words) explanation of why it is less of a stretch to bend forward by flexing the knees rather than keeping them extended, which involves the gastrocnemius muscles connecting with the hamstring muscles. With all due respect to Tom Myers, the gastrocnemius muscles have nothing to do with it. The polyarticular nature of the hamstring muscles is sufficient to explain this fact. I also regret the good old, but inaccurate, analogy of the spine and its muscles with the rigging of a sailboat; inaccurate, as the spine is not a straight rod but a S-shape structure and that the muscles are attached directly to it – a very important difference in function.

The only real problem I have with this well crafted book is that the myofascial meridians are made up of myofascial continuities. In other words, they represent contiguities of myofascial structures and as such are not myofascial chains and therefore cannot really do what the author says they do. Of the 11 meridians, only 2 – the Superficial Back Line and the Deep Back Line, which I would group together – have, in my view, any real practical significance for Manual and Movement Therapists.

Despite these reservations, this is a gem of a book. Don't miss your (Anatomy) Train; and buy a return ticket as the book will, no doubt, entice you to come back to it again and again.

Further Information

Please see Thomas Myer’s comments and Joël Carbonnel’s replies at:

Available from Anatomy Trains and Amazon

Joel Carbonnel
Churchill Livingstone
£37.63 $54.23
ISBN 978-0702046544

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