What, exactly, is connective tissue?
Connective tissue, or fascia, is strong, tough, fibrous tissue that acts as the support system—and spacers—for the entire body. Composed of the protein collagen, Connective Tissue accounts for half the protein in the body. No tissue in the body is as abundant. It binds cells into tissues, tissues into organs, connects muscles and bones, wraps every nerve and vessel, laces all internal structures into place and envelopes the body. When tightly bundled together, it forms tendons and ligaments; around muscles and organs, it is thin and often transparent; in the low back and outer thigh, it forms large, thick white sheets that are amazingly strong.
All these linings, wrappings, cables, and moorings are continuous, connecting everything to everything else. Connective tissue so thoroughly permeates the body that if you removed everything else, there would still be a three-dimensional, recognizable human form.
Healthy connective tissue is characterized by flexibility, elasticity, length, and resilience. The tissue absorbs and responds to the earth’s gravitational force, illness, injury, emotional trauma, and everyday stress. Any of these factors will, over a period of time, cause an imbalance in the tissue system. Imbalance is identified as a shortening, thickening, and dehydration of the tissue, which impairs joint mobility and muscle function. This is usually felt in the body as chronic pain, stiffness, or decreased flexibility and impaired movement.
The fact that fascia changes shape as a body deteriorates indicates it possesses “plasticity,” a quality that can also be used to restore the body to balance. Connective tissue, unlike muscle tone, changes very slowly. Under the sustained and careful pressure of the Rolfer’s hands, the tissue can be loosened, lengthened, and shifted to balance and align to the body.