Colloidal gel makes up the ground substance of connective tissue. If soft tissue pressure can affect this ground substance, we can theoretically affect almost every living cell in the body.If we couple the universality of this gel with respect to our internal environment and the concept of "tensegrity" that I discussed in the March issue of Dynamic Chiropractic, we can realize the astounding effect of soft tissue treatment on our bodies. An increase in tension in one part of our structure results in increased tension in members throughout the structure - even on the opposite side of the body. A local force can change the shape of an entire tensegrity structure.1 Our structure is totally connected from the molecules to the bones and muscles and tendons of the human body.1 How many times have you touched a C2 transverse process and heard patients state that they feel it in their ankles or side or pelvis? You cannot explain it with "nerves" or "dermatomes" - it's connective tissue tension responding to pressure.
The colloidal gel is the ground substance that surrounds the collagen fibers. Tanaka writes: "A gel is a form of matter intermediate between a solid and a liquid. It consists of polymers, or long-chain molecules, cross-linked to create a tangled network and immersed in a liquid medium. The liquid prevents the polymer network from collapsing into a compact mass; the network prevents the liquid from flowing away."2
Most gels are thixotropic, becoming fluid when shaken or compressed and then becoming semisolid again. According to Guyton's Physiology,3 almost all of the interstitial fluid is held in a gel that fills the spaces between the cells. The gel contains large quantities of mucopolysaccharides - mostly hyaluronic acid, which makes up the filaments of the gel, as molecules that are coiled, like springs, and are compressed against each other. Therefore, the elastic forces of these molecules prevent further compression. Nutrients; oxygen; waste products of metabolism; enzymes; and the building blocks involved in the metabolic regeneration process move through the gel. Trauma; disuse; lack of movement with its diminished circulation; repetitive motion; and poor posture over time eventually cause the gel (ground substance) to dehydrate, contract and harden, resulting in a kinking of the collagen bundles. This results in shortening and malfunction of tendons, ligaments, muscles and fascia.1
Also, toxins and metabolic waste products accumulate in the connective tissues, especially in areas that have become densified as a response to trauma or structural imbalance. Connective tissue gel traps materials mechanically, due to small channels between its fibers, and electrically because of its abundant negative charges. Toxins are therefore trapped, and palpation will reveal a tender, thickened barrier.
The benefits of changing the environment of this universal gel are clear. Fascial release, which is an application of pressure, creates a rapid solation (gel-to-liquid), and therefore a rehydration. After the pressure is released, the system rapidly re-gels and the tissue is transformed, both in its water content and in its ability to conduct energy and movement. The ground substance becomes more porous, a better medium for the diffusion of nutrients; oxygen; waste products of metabolism; and the enzymes and building blocks involved in the metabolic regeneration process. The release of the trapped substances, some of which may have been stored for years, is carried away by the lymphatic and venous drainage and are excreted, a good reason patients should drink extra water after treatment.
Compression of tissue also creates a piezoelectric effect and generates electric fields, which has an effect on cell regeneration. According to Marsland and Brown,5 a uniform compression produces an intermolecular shearing force by changing the relative position of the individual molecules. They state that with pressure on gels, not only viscous changes occur, but also changes in rigidity and elasticity. Finally, they state that all of these effects result from the solation of the cellular gels as a result of compression.
- Ingber DE. The architecture of life. Scientific American, January 1998. (http://www.sciam.com/1998/0198issue/0198ingber.html).
- Tanaka T. Gels. Scientific American 244,1981:124-138.
- Guyton AC. Textbook of Medical Physiology, Philadelphia, WB Saunders Co.1976.
- Oschman JL. Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis. New York, Churchill Livingstone, 2000.
- Marsland DA, Brown DES, 1942. The effects of pressure on sol-gel equilibria, with special reference to myosin and other protoplasmic gels. Journal of Cellular and Comparative Physiology 20:295-305.
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