Strain hardening of fascia: static stretching of dense fibrous connective tissues can induce a temporary stiffness increase accompanied by enhanced matrix hydration

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2012 Jan;16(1):94-100. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2011.09.003. Epub 2011 Dec 5.


This study examined a potential cellular basis for strain hardening of fascial tissues: an increase in stiffness induced by stretch and subsequent rest. Mice lumbodorsal fascia were isometrically stretched for 15 min followed by 30 min rest (n=16). An increase in stiffness was observed in the majority of samples, including the nonviable control samples. Investigations with porcine lumbar fascia explored hydration changes as an explanation (n=24). Subject to similar loading procedures, tissues showed decreases in fluid content immediately post-stretch and increases during rest phases. When allowed sufficient resting time, a super-compensation phenomenon was observed, characterised by matrix hydration higher than initial levels and increases in tissue stiffness. Therefore, fascial strain hardening does not seem to rely on cellular contraction, but rather on this super-compensation. Given a comparable occurrence of this behaviour in vivo, clinical application of routines for injury prevention merit exploration.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Back Injuries / metabolism
  • Back Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Connective Tissue / anatomy & histology
  • Connective Tissue / physiology
  • Extracellular Matrix / physiology
  • Fascia / anatomy & histology
  • Fascia / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hypotonic Solutions / pharmacology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Models, Biological*
  • Organ Size
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Shear Strength / physiology
  • Swine
  • Water / metabolism*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*


  • Hypotonic Solutions
  • Water