The ubiquitous network of fascial tissues in the human body is usually regarded as a passive contributor to musculoskeletal dynamics. This review aims to highlight the current understanding of fascial stiffness regulation. Notably the ability for active cellular contraction which may augment the stiffness of fascial tissues and thereby contribute to musculoskeletal dynamics. A related narrative literature search via PubMed and Google Scholar reveals a multitude of studies indicating that the intrafascial presence of myofibroblasts may enable these tissues to alter their stiffness. This contractile tissue behavior occurs not only in several pathological fibrotic contractures but has also been documented in normal fasciae. When viewed at time frames of seconds and minutes the force of such tissue contractions is not sufficient for exerting a significant effect on mechanical joint stability. However, when viewed in a time-window of several minutes and longer, such cellular contractions can impact motoneuronal coordination. In addition, over a time frame of days to months, this cellular activity can induce long-term and severe tissue contractures. These findings tend to question the common clear distinction between active tissues and passive tissues in musculoskeletal dynamics. Clin. Anat. 32:891-895, 2019. © 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Keywords: connective tissue; contracture; fascia; fibrosis; myofibroblast; stiffness.
© 2019 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.