Topics in Soft Tissue Anatomy of the Spine

What is soft tissue? Wikipedia defines soft tissue as being all structures other than bone that support the bones and moving structures in the body. Soft tissue may include all the other structures in the body other than the bones, such as the ligaments, tendons, joint cartilage, and muscles. When describing soft tissues related to the proper functioning of the spine, we are usually referring to the joints of the spine (e.g. facet joints, intervertebral discs) as well as the spinal ligaments and tendons. Many of the soft tissues of the spine, other than the muscles, are connective tissue structures whose elasticity and ability to regenerate diminish as we get older. For this reason, it will be imperative for all of us to take care of our backs for as long as we can, so as to not damage these vital but delicate structures that keep our backs moving.

The soft tissue structures of the spine are important in both its movements and its protection. These connective tissue structures have structural properties that create separation of the vertebral bones so that they don't wear each other out. When connective tissue structures such as the intervertebral discs loss enough of their mass so that they become unable to separate the vertebral bones, conditions such as osteoarthritis and bone spurs may occur. Soft tissue structures such as the spinal ligaments are responsible for holding the individual segments of the spine together, so that it moves as a whole unit. When these soft tissue structures become stiff over time or lax doe to poor body posture, they mail fail to hold some of the individual segments in their proper position. Conditions that describe displacement of one or more vertebra in the spine include spondylolithesis, retrolisthesis, and anterolisthesis.

When soft tissue injuries do occur, recovery times may be increased compared to injuries in other structures that are more vascular. More vascular structures, such as the bones and muscles, recover more quickly from injury because their potent blood supply allows oxygen and nutrients to be quickly delivered to them, to facilitate the healing process. Structures such as the spinal ligaments and spinal joints, on the other hand, have a poor blood supply. These structures may take many months to heal, if ever, following an injury. Today, there are several types of products and back pain treatments that are available to try to jumpstart the healing process in these soft tissues so that you experience relief sooner rather than later. Some of these treatments involve irritating the areas around these connective tissue structures to force a blood supply to these areas. Other technologies involve techniques that stimulate the blood of blood to the tissues in need in other ways. Other treatments involve eastern therapy techniques that increase the flow of vital energy to the injured structures in need of repair.

Let's take a look at some topics in soft tissue anatomy of the spine.
In back medicine, primary care physicians, radiologists, and spine surgeons often pay close attention to what's not there, when examining the anatomy of your body. By what's not there, we mean the absence of the right amount of spacing between the vertebral bones and the facets of the spine. A narrowing of one or more of these spaces indicates degenerative disc disease or facet arthritis. But one thing doctors also must watch out for are things in the spine that are there and shouldn't be. One unwanted component to the spinal anatomy includes adhesions, also known as scar tissue. Scar tissue may develop following back injuries, and they may also develop during the recovery phase of back surgeries. Adhesions may also develop due to muscles strain or back strain. These structures may impair the movement of the structures that they attach to, or at least make them more painful.

One treatment that is used to break up these bands of scar tissue is known as the Graston Technique. The Graston technique includes a system of movements performed by a trained practitioner to manually manipulate the soft tissues and associated adhesions. The practitioner uses several different types of stainless steel instruments to manually rub over the affected soft tissues to break down the soft tissue. These instruments are all made of stainless steel with various smooth concave and convex shapes to allow for the manual treatment of muscles throughout the back and body. The treatment provides by this technique is also known as soft tissue mobilization.

How the Graston Technique Works: The theory behind this technique is that once the soft tissue injuries are accurately diagnosed, the patients will gradually feel better as the Graston practitioners break up the accumulated soft tissues using their proper tools and methods. These treatments will have their desired effects as the bands of scar tissue are separated and broken down. These bands of scar tissue will be broken down by stretching the connective tissue and muscle fibers.