Connective tissue is self-explanatory in its name. It connects things in our body. It is one of four types of tissues in the body including skin, muscle and nerve tissue. Connective tissue (CT) is found throughout the body and it is the fascia, or supportive tissue which holds us together. The connective tissue that we are referring to here is the sleeve or container of the muscle, and it lies between the skin and muscle layer all over our bodies.
Different studies have demonstrated that connective tissue problems (unhealthy, thickened and stiff tissue) can result from:
- Wind-up of our sympathetic or central nervous system as a result of persistent pain, be caused by inflammation or infection in our organs such as our bladder, prostate or uterus,
- Can be caused by underlying joint problems surrounding that particular connective tissue (inflammation in the sacro-iliac joint for example),
- Can occur superficial to Myofascial Trigger Points or
- Can occur in the area related to sensation of a particular inflamed peripheral nerve (ie. Pudendal Nerve Irritation).
Essentially, connective tissue stiffness is a very important component of the tissue problems that we see with persistent pelvic pain.
The symptoms of connective tissue dysfunction are:
- Itching, burning, numbness and pain
- Genital hypersensitivity
- Clothing, underwear, sitting intolerance
- Organ irritation or dysfunction (in other words, your connective tissue can get irritated because your bladder is infected or irritated, OR your bladder can get inflamed or irritated because your connective tissue is irritated: it is a vicious cycle)
- Poor tissue integrity: vaginal and rectal fissures, or small tears in the tissue
- Colour changes in the skin, usually darker or blotchy
- Sympathetic Nervous System up regulation (winds your nervous system up further and contributes to your
- Sensitive Nervous System)
- The treatment for connective tissue dysfunction in the pelvic area is skin rolling of the affected areas from the knees to the rib cage, front and back, including the sides of the thighs, buttocks and abdominal wall. Skin rolling is a superficial connective tissue technique, and can be carried out by any massage therapist or Pelvic Health Physiotherapist.
A Self-Treatment Technique For Foam Rolling can also be used as a homework program, or as an independent treatment technique at home. If you are not seeing a physiotherapist for this problem, then you will need to access Ending Female Pain by Isa Herrera (2009) for self-treatment techniques of the vulva and perineum.