Connective tissue is that fabulous tissue type that holds all of our cells, and all of ourselves, together. It surrounds every neuron, myofibril, and fibroblast to the extent that one could say all those cells are inserted into the extracellular matrix of connective tissue, which holds us all together. This extracellular matrix is the combination of collagen fibers and ground substance which are produced by the fibroblasts, the cells of connective tissue.
The beauty of the collagen fibers and the ground substance of connective tissue for bodyworkers is their predictability in terms of their response to the forces acting on them. Luckily for us, there are only two forces that connective tissue receive: pressure and movement. In response to pressure, fibroblasts produce more collagen fibers for more structure, and in response to movement fibroblasts produce more ground substance to lubricate the movement. In addition, movement attracts collagenase, a protein that dissolves collagen fibers.
Appreciate how this plays out and is useful to effective bodywork: by applying pressure and movement in conscious and considered ways, a skilled bodyworker can guide the connective tissue matrix into more effective and functional, and less problematic constructions and relationships.
The cells of connective tissue proper, the fibroblasts, respond to pressure by producing a greater concentration of collagen fibers. The pressure that produces this fibroblast response must be sustained over a period of time, such as the pressure produced by muscle tone. The pressure a massage therapist applies to a client’s tissue during a session is not nearly sufficient in its duration to elicit a collagen fiber response from the associated fibroblasts.
When the pressure applied to connective tissue proper is due to hypertonicity, the collagen fiber matrix that will result will be problematic. It will build up excess structure at the cost of range of motion. Over a period of time with sustained hypertonicity, the collagen build up can be restrictive enough to cause pain and inflammation. It makes physiologic sense that chronic hypertonicity is the root of osteoarthritis.
The way to correct this situation is to use the other force that connective tissue responds to – movement. Introducing well-considered movement into a collagen heavy matrix will separate the fibers and fiber bundles, lubricate the area with synovial fluid, and attract collagenase to reduce the collagen fiber concentration.
When bodywork combines these principles with a view toward considering how hypertonicities are organized through the body as a whole, effective and long lasting results are achievable.
This is a very good link describing the dynamic of connective tissue: http://youtu.be/_FtSP-tkSug