Massage & Bodywork

May | June 2014

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I t p a y s t o b e A B M P C e r t i f i e d : w w w. a b m p . c o m / g o / c e r t i f i e d c e n t r a l 93 STORY 6 COLLAGEN, DEMAND, AND FLUSHING Let's fi nish these stories by stringing together three physiological details that might shed a little more light on the relationship between connective tissue and movement. First, you're a collagen-producing machine. Second, your body responds to demand. Third, movement fl ushes out the old and pumps in the new. To the fi rst point: like a limitless spring that gushes from the earth, your body continuously generates collagen. As the main component of connective tissue— found abundantly in tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone, intervertebral discs, and more—this miracle protein not only separates structures, but also binds them together. As you can imagine, this requires quite a balancing act. On the one hand, too much collagen could result in a sticky situation that limits range of motion; too little might culminate in instability. Complicating matters further is the fact that not all regions require the same level of collagenous material. Your low back (heavily stabilized by the thoracolumbar aponeurosis) will demand a lot of collagen, while the muscle fi bers in your deltoid (highly mobile) will require comparatively less material. The situation is yet more complex because not all areas mobilize equally. Your elbows, for instance, might move quite a bit throughout the day, while your neck or hips might not stretch nearly as much as they were designed to. So how does your body know where to lay down collagen fi bers? Well, it doesn't "know." Instead, it relies on cues—especially your movement cues. Which brings us to the second point: your body responds to demand. "Use it or lose it" isn't just a cute rhyme, but a blunt gospel about healthy tissue and range of motion. Move your body and your tissues will adapt to maintain that mobility; don't move and your body will modify your tissues accordingly. Probably the best illustration of this fact occurs when you join the crew of the International Space Station for two months in zero gravity. Under such weightless conditions, your joints, bones, muscles, and other tissues—devoid of earthly stresses— begin to atrophy and shrink soon after blastoff. Conversely, train for the Hawaiian Ironman and feel how your bones and myofascial tissues are augmented and strengthened by the stresses of your balanced and healthy workout regimen. For a more mundane (yet regrettable) example, fi nd yourself in a neck brace for three weeks and, upon removal of the apparatus, note the diminished mobility of your cervical spine. Aside from proprioceptive recalibration that will have occurred in your neck muscles (where a muscle redraws its "blueprint" to determine its appropriate resting length), the stiffness you feel is largely due to unchecked development of collagen fi bers in and around these bellies. The body thinks, "Oh, we're not moving the neck anymore? Fine. We'll just lay that collagen down thick for extra stability." The body is always listening and adapting. This brings us to one of movement's less touted features, its ability to fl ush out and engender the new—collagen fi bers, that is. If you'd like to cha-cha when you're 80, it is not only critical for you to move your body, but also to move the stuff that is inside of your body. For instance, a signifi cant portion of your bodily fl uids resides outside the vessels of your cardiovascular system. Because there is no built-in pumping system, they can become stagnant in the swampy hinterlands of your tissues. Instead, interstitial fl uids, enzymes, and microscopic particulates must rely primarily on the propulsive suck-and-draw of your joints and undulating tissues to be recycled. Thus, movement not only mobilizes your joints, but also fi lters and revitalizes the fl uids that surround those very joints and tissues. Together, these three notions—collagen, demand, and fl ushing—represent the continual dance between your fascial tissues, mobility, and stability. And there you have it—a half-dozen tales of connective tissue. Hopefully, they'll shed a little light on this miraculous substance the next time you hike up a trail, move your client's limbs, or cut up a chicken. Andrew Biel, LMP, is the author of Trail Guide to the Body: How to Locate Muscles, Bones and More (Books of Discovery, 2010) and the president of Books of Discovery. This is an excerpt from his forthcoming book Trail Guide to Movement: Building the Body in Motion (Books of Discovery, 2014). He lives outside of Lyons, Colorado, with his wife, Lyn Gregory, and two children, Grace and Elias.

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