Images copyright T. Flemons 2006

Tensegrity is a created word blending tension and integrity. Based on the principles of tensegrity, our fascial matrix is considered an interconnected tensional network. No longer the idea that we are a stack of building blocks, research reveals bones and tissues make up a dynamic balance of compression (pushing forces) and tension (pulling forces) integrity. 

This tensegrity structure finely attunes and balances itself to its internal and external environment and distributes forces via multidimensional lines of tension to dissipate them throughout the matrix. Any force can influence and create adaptation to any part of the whole, from cells to the entire body through this global fascial network. 

Video presentation by Dr. Donald Ingber to high school students ... presenting tensegrity in architecture, nature and new evolutions in medical thought and design.

Dr. Stephen Levin originated the concept of Biotensegrity more than 30 years ago. He originally trained as an Orthopedic and Spine Surgeon and was formerly Clinical Associated Professor at Michigan State University and Howard University. He studied general systems theory with noted biologist, Timothy Allen, and now, retired from clinical practice, considers himself a 'Systems Biologist'. He has been closely allied with others working in the field of Design Science, emphasizing the work of Buckminster Fuller and its applications. He has written numerous papers that contribute to the understanding of how biological structures function like tensegrity structures.

This is from The Liberated Body podcast with Brooke Thomas interviewing Dr. Stephen Levin:

Brooke: For those unacquainted can you give us a simple, kind of nutshell definition of what biotensegrity is?

Stephen: Tensegrity is a word derived from tension and integrity which is a Buckminster Fuller term to indicate a continuous tension network. It's actually more than that. It's the compression elements of the structure are meshed within the tension elements so that the compression elements, the rods, the skeleton, do not press on one another.

A tensegrity requires at minimum three conditions to fit either Kenneth Snelson's or Buckminster Fuller's definition:

1. They are discontinuously connected, that is, they do not transfer compressive loads. In these domes it is the tension forces that travel along the outer edges of the struts that are continuous. Similarly, if anatomical structures operate as tensegrities, then in most orientations the bones do not pass a direct load across the joint– rather the tension members; ligaments, tendons, and fascia transfer loads and the bones float in this tension matrix.

2) All tensegrities are prestressed under tension; they are self–supporting and independent of gravity. But the weight of the structure also adds to the prestress. As you increase the weight load the tensegrity tightens and gets smaller. The heavier the structure is, the greater the tension, and the less the range of motion. This presents real design problems when trying to model living systems that have and use joints with multiple degrees of freedom.