Soft Tissue Injury and Fibroblast Regeneration
Mechanical friction during deep tissue massage, fascial manipulation or using techniques like Graston will activate the stimulation the fibroblast reproduction after soft tissue injury. These fibroblasts cells are the most common cells of connective tissue, and they synthesize the extracellular matrix (ECM) and collagen, which is the main framework of our soft tissues. The properties of the connective tissues depends on the composition of ECM – tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues. Elastic and reticular fibers, glycoproteins, glycosaminoglycans, and collagen are all found in ECM and made by fibroblasts. Collagen is the most important part of ECM and plays very important role in tensile loading. The stimulation of production of the above mentioned components can be achieved by frictioning tissues (in other words by providing cross-fiber massage).
Fibroblast production and degeneration is a normal process in every day mechanical loading such as walking, running, bicycling or any other form of movement. There are four basic types of loads: tension (tensile force-fibroblasts), compression (chondrocytes), fluid shear (vascular endothelial cells) and torsional shear. Collagen synthesis in patellar tendon ( which is used the most by bicyclist and runners) increases by nearly 100% as a result of just single bout of acute exercise, and the effect is till evident three days later. I guess I am doing a good job with my knees by keeping them busy with prolonged Mountain Bike Riding and avoiding soft tissue injury.
In the beginning of a training period the balance between synthesis and degradation is increased and there is a net loss of collagen. This enables a tendon to restructure and adapt to an increased loading pattern. It is not till training progress that there is a net gain in collagen synthesis. Deep friction massage can also help to repair a mild soft tissue injury to a knee tendon. Fibroblasts play an important role in wound healing. When connective tissue and blood vessels get injured, growth factors cause fibroblasts to enter the wound area, increase its numbers and begin synthesizing new collagen fibers, creating new granulation tissue and assisting in remodeling. The ECM of granulation tissue is created and modified by fibroblasts.
Recently I was exploring a new trail with another rider. During a steep rocky climb my rear wheel lost a traction and my right knee got over extended. I felt sharp pain but continued on riding. Next day I felt sharp pain around and under my right knee cap (patella tendon). Three to four sessions of deep tissue massage, cross friction massage and modalities such as electric stimulation and Erchonia Cold Laser L5000 model made my knee completely pain free. This is a real example of how Fabroblast is working.
There has also been research done that eccentric exercises may provide more benefit than concentric exercises regarding rehabilitation of muscles and tendons. Eccentric exercises provide greater stimulation of fibroblasts, increasing collagen synthesis and therefore stimulating the healing of soft tissue.