Connective Tissue

Connective Tissue is a metamembrane.  It is one continuous substance in its various shapes and consistencies. 

Every part of the body is connected to every other part by the network of connective tissue.  If you were to remove all of the other elements of the body except the connective tissue there would remain a 3D shape. The shape of the musculature would be preserved by connective tissue sheaths of the muscle fibers and the intramuscular walls.  The form of the blood vessels and capillaries would remain.  The organs would retain their duct system and general conformation and would continue to be supported by peritoneal attachments.  Even the central nervous system would retain it’s form.  Connective tissue is essentially one solid piece of tissue from heat to toe, from superficial fascia of the skin to the marrow of the bones.

Connective Tissue constitutes the immediate environment of every cell in the body by wrapping and uniting all structures with it’s moist fibrous, cohering sheets and strands.  (Deahne Juhan.  Job’s Body)

Types of Connective Tissue includes:

  • blood

  • lymph

  • tendons

  • ligaments

  • cartilage

  • cornea of the eye

  • nerve and blood vessel sheathes

  • myofascia surrounding each muscle

  • periosteum covering of the bones

  • areolar connective tissue lining joint cavities

  • adipose tissue

  • bone

Unhealthy connective tissue may be caused by things like malnutrition, trauma, injury, pathology, fatigue, stress, sedentary lifestyle and the agind process.

It may lead to some of the following things:

  • decreased fluid volume by build up of toxins and other metabolites

  • a continuous gel state of ground substance

  • adhesions

  • decreased flexibility and rigidity of tissues which has a greater risk for microtears, scar tissue and broadening and thickening of tissue

  • decreased ROM

  • tissues become colder and less energized

  • If fascia is restricted at time of trauma, the forces cannot be dispersed properly and areas of the body are subject to an intolerable impact

Healthy connective tissue is flexible and easily softened.  It is maintained by proper nutrition, proper hydration, stretching, physical work, exercise and massage.

If you wish to change the relationships among the bones, change the tensional balance through the soft tissue and the bones will rearrange themselves.  -Tom Myers, Anatomy Trains

Characteristics and Function

Connective tissue has a nerve supply except for cartilage and is highly vascular except for cartilage and tendons.  It consists of three basic elements:

  1. Cells

  2. Ground Substance

  3. Fibers (collagen, elastin and reticular

The ground substance or matrix may be fluid, semifluid, gelatinous, or calcified.  The matrix is secreted by the connective tissue cells and adjacent cells and determines the tissues qualities.

The thixotrophic effect is the ability of connective tissue to become more fluid when it is stirred up (sol) and more solid when it sits undisturbed (gel).

Collagen is the main ingredient of connective tissue.  It is hollow and may contain cerebral spinal fluid.  It is important in regeneration, growth, wound healing and it can migrate to any point in the body and adjust to internal chemistry in response to local conditions.  It can create specific forms of structural tissue appropriate to that area.

The functions of connective tissue are to bind, support and strengthen.  It supports movement and aids in posture.  It allows for compression, lengthening and stretching, twisting and rotational movements.  It absorbs shock and disperses stress/load associated with movement throughout the body.  It supports the process of wound healing, growth, and regeneration. It gives rise to cells that store fat, ingest bacteria and cell debris, form anticoagulants or give rise to antibodies that protect against disease.

Muscle is elastic, fascia is plastic.  Stretched a muscle will attempt to recoil back to its resting length.  Stretch fascia quickly and it will tear (the most frequent form of connective tissue injury.)  If the stretch is applied slowly enough, it will deform plastically: it will change it’s length and retain that change. Fascia does not snap back although over time and given the opportunity, it will lay down new fibers which will rebind the area. 

The plasticity of fascia is its essential nature- it’s gift to the body and the key to unraveling it’s long term patterns.

               -Tom Myers.  Anatomy Trains

Fascia is the organ of posture. Nobody ever says this; all the talk is about muscles.
Yet this is a very important concept…especially the anatomy of fascia.
The body is a web of fascia. A spider web is in a plane; our body’s web is in a sphere.
We can trace the lines of that web to get an understanding of how what we see in a body works.
-Dr. Ida P. Rolf

Fascia

Fascia is the type of connective tissue that covers the muscles of the body. It is composed of collagen, elastin and a ground substance of protein chains

which produce a sol/gel substance.  Fascia means band or bandage in latin.  It gives the body it’s form. Fascia forms and supports the body.  It also restricts and provides boundaries.  It covers the muscles helping to provide more strength. It helps in repairing the body.  It can be in the healing process that the problems of pain in the body begin.  The healing process itself can lead to adhesions in the tissue which bind and restrict movement and can lead to fibrosis.

“The fascia of the body is continuous from head to toe.  You can travel from the top of your head to your liver, spleen or right malleolus (ankle) without ever leaving fascia.  All the viscera during development in the embryo migrate and carry their fascia with them.  Fascia glides easily when subjected to gentle traction. Inflammation, adhesion, postural stress and somatic dysfunction all interfere with the free gliding of the fascia”.  ~John Upledger

Wikipedia defines fascia as this:

A fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, binding those structures together like plastic sandwich wraps. It consists of several layers: a superficial fascia, a deep fascia, and a subserous (or visceral) fascia and extends uninterrupted from the head to the tip of the toes.

Fascia is the fascinating biological fabric and glue that holds us together.  Long ignored, the fascial system is now getting its rightful due of attention, from both therapists and researchers. ~ Thomas Myers, Anatomy Trains

When you are working on muscles you are working on fascia.  There is no separating the two.

Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction by Janet Travell, M.D, beautifully illustrates that there is a myofascial element to most everything as every muscle of the body is surrounded by a smooth fascial sheath, every muscular fascicule is surrounded by fascia, every fibril is surrounded by fascia, and every micro-fibril down to the cellular level is surrounded by fascia that can exert pressures of over 2,000 pounds per square inch. Therefore, it is the fascia that can ultimately determine the length and function of its muscular component.

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