PART 2… NEURAL VERSUS CONNECTIVE TISSUE VERSUS MUSCLE

In part one we looked at neural tissue and introduced the idea of neural mobility.

So, what happens if the nerves can’t move…

NEURAL MOBILITY…

As neural tissue doesn’t have the ability to stretch, it must be able to slide and glide throughout the neural interface. The interface can be any structure in the body – including our joints, connective tissue and muscle.

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WHAT IF OUR NERVES ARE RESTRICTED?

Our nerves are responsible for the health of our tissues. If neural mobility is restricted, the health of both the neural tissue and the tissue the nerve supplies can be affected.

So if we look at muscle tissue along the path of a nerve…

  • Muscle tightness can lead to a restriction in neural mobility that can then in turn lead to changes in muscle activation, fatigue-ability, tone and tightness. And so the cycle begins…

Recurrent muscle tightness in some cases may be more related to an ongoing restriction of the neural pathway and poor neural tissue health rather than the symptomatic muscle tissue. So, what is muscle tightness?

MUSCLE TIGHTNESS…

What is a tight muscle? We hear a lot of clients reporting tightness through different muscle groups, but what is it? And why does it happen?

Most commonly, we see muscles that are “tight” because they are either:

  • Fatigued / Overworked / Weak: This results in the presence of myofascial trigger points that we know result in a reduction in both active and passive length.
  • Hypertonic: Muscles that have a high degree of resting tone are said to be “hypertonic”. This is often the result of protective muscle guarding, or compensatory patterns that have developed. Muscles that have lost the ability to “switch off” will resist passive movement.
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CONNECTIVE TISSUE TIGHTNESS…

Fascia is a web-like collagenous fibrous connective tissue present throughout our body. It is continuous with our muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones and organs. It connects everything to everything. As well as being continuous with our muscles, fascia is also present within our muscles providing links and support between muscle fibres. Some stand-out examples of fascia you may have heard of are the ilio-tibial band (ITB) and the plantar fascia.

 

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As with any system, if a part isn’t functioning efficiently it can lead to problems. In the case of the fascial system within our bodies this is likely to mean altered movement patterns and changes in posture which commonly contribute to pain and dysfunction.

For more information about fascia, check out our blogs (click here for part one or part two).

NERVE TIGHTNESS…

As discussed earlier, nerves do not have the capacity to stretch. This means they must be able to slide and glide through their neural interface (ie. Muscle, connective tissue, joints) without restriction. If this does become restricted, health of both the neural tissue and the tissue the nerve supplies can be negatively affected.

Nerve tightness is often secondary to biomechanical overload. If we think about a person running, they must have sufficient, effective loading of the entire trunk and lower limb. If any point of the trunk or lower limb becomes overloaded, the nerve can also be restricted and consequently overloaded.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY TIGHTNESS IS FROM THE MUSCLE, CONNECTIVE TISSUE OR NERVE?

This can only be answered by an accurate and thorough biomechanical assessment that assess each of these tissues individually. Each person will load their body in a slightly different manner, which makes them more (or less) susceptible to overloading one structure/tissue more than another. If you feel you have tight muscles that haven’t responded to stretching, it is likely to be another tissue structure causing your tightness.

IN SUMMARY…

Physiotherapists at The Injury Clinic frequently see a variety of injuries to a range of different tissue structures. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us on (03) 5229 3911 or email us on info@theinjuryclinic.com.au

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