Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Contractility of fascia may affect passive muscle stiffness

PainSci » bibliography » Schleip et al 2006
Tags: etiology, controversy, biology, structuralism, massage, fascia, pro, debunkery, biomechanical vulnerability, manual therapy, treatment, modalities, connective tissue

Two pages on PainSci cite Schleip 2006: 1. Shin Splints Treatment, The Complete Guide2. Does Fascia Matter?

PainSci commentary on Schleip 2006: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

In this follow-up to a famous paper reporting that fascia contains muscle cells (see Schleip et al), the authors focus on clinical implications, speculating in particular that fascia’s ability to contract is a factor in muscle tightness and therefore in any condition negatively affected by muscle tightness. The relevance of weak fascial contractions to the conditions provided as examples is dubious. I analyze this paper, and its predecessor, in detail in the article: Does Fascia Matter?.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

The article introduces the hypothesis that intramuscular connective tissue, in particular the fascial layer known as the perimysium, may be capable of active contraction and consequently influence passive muscle stiffness, especially in tonic muscles. Passive muscle stiffness is also referred to as passive elasticity, passive muscular compliance, passive extensibility, resting tension, or passive muscle tone. Evidence for the hypothesis is based on five indications: (1) tonic muscles contain more perimysium and are therefore stiffer than phasic muscles; (2) the specific collagen arrangement of the perimysium is designed to fit a load-bearing function; (3) morphological considerations as well as histological observations in our laboratory suggest that the perimysium is characterized by a high density of myofibroblasts, a class of fibroblasts with smooth muscle-like contractile kinetics; (4) in vitro contraction tests with fascia have demonstrated that fascia, due to the presence of myofibroblasts, is able to actively contract, and that the resulting contraction forces may be strong enough to influence musculoskeletal dynamics; (5) the pronounced increase of the perimysium in muscle immobilization and in the surgical treatment of distraction osteogenesis indicates that perimysial stiffness adapts to mechanical stimulation and hence influences passive muscle stiffness. In conclusion, the perimysium seems capable of response to mechanostimulation with a myofibroblast facilitated active tissue contraction, thereby adapting passive muscle stiffness to increased tensional demands, especially in tonic musculature. If verified, this new concept may lead to novel pharmaceutical or mechanical approaches to complement existing treatments of pathologies which are accompanied by an increase or decrease of passive muscle stiffness (e.g., muscle fibroses such as torticollis, peri-partum pelvic pain due to pelvic instability, and many others). Methods for testing this new concept are suggested, including histological examinations and specific in vitro contraction tests.

related content

This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:

PainSci Member Login » Submit your email to unlock member content. If you can’t remember/access your registration email, please contact me. ~ Paul Ingraham, PainSci Publisher