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What is connective tissue?

woman stretching before run
In human biology, tissues are categorized into four types: nervous, muscular, epithelial, and connective. Connective tissue, as the name implies, serves to connect one tissue to another. These tissues use stretchy collagen and other fibres to help connect your organs and keep them in place, and denser collagen to make up the tendons and ligaments in your muscles and joints.

In the musculoskeletal system, connective tissues keep your bones, muscles, and joints functioning properly by keeping them together and in good shape. Tendons, for example, connect muscles to the bones they move and can even facilitate their motion, while still maintaining a high resistance to tension thanks to their dense collagen fibres. Ligaments, on the other hand, keep joints together and ensure proper function by connecting bones to other bones. While they are tough, if a ligament stays in the wrong position or endures too much load for a long time, it gets weaker and becomes more prone to future problems, such as dislocations.

Muscles in general are composed of very small fibres strung together into larger structures by a connective fascia wrapping around large groups, giving them the strength they need to contract properly and connecting them to other muscles. These fasciae also connect to the skin, sitting just under the lowest layer, called the dermis. When fasciae become tight, weakened, or scarred, due to injury or inactivity it can impair movement. This is why fasciae are important in chiropractic – since they are attached to the skin, a chiropractor can use a roller or exercises to loosen them. Adjustments and regular exercise can also strengthen and loosen fasciae in between muscles, allowing for better, less restricted motion.

These fasciae and other connective tissues aren’t only in the muscles and skin – they are present all around the body, notably around the brain and spinal cord. These are called the meninges, and they protect the central nervous system from infection and injury. When the meninges around the spine are disrupted, it can lead to pain, paralysis, or loss of bowel or bladder control. While bacterial infections of the meninges should be treated with antibiotics, a chiropractor can relieve pressure on the meninges by adjusting posture and making sure the muscles and joints of the spine are in their proper place.

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