Soft tissue is a broad term that covers various groups of cells within the body. Each of these cell groups, or tissue, serves a purpose related to the body parts they are connected to. Some human tissues, such as tendons, simply serve as connective tissue in order to join body structures, while other tissues, like muscles, might help foster movement.
All tissues found within the body that are not those of bones or organs are considered soft tissues. The composition of soft tissue consists mainly of elastin and collagen. Ground substance, the non-cellular, fibrous components of a cell, also make up part of this tissue. In most cases, this arrangement accounts for the highly elastic and hydrated state of these cells.
Many body structures are joined together by soft tissue. Muscles and bones are connected to each other via tendons, which are another example of soft tissue. When two bones meet, they are also connected by soft tissues. In this case, the tissues are known as ligaments. Muscle itself is also an example of soft tissue.
Some soft tissues encompass other body structures for support or protection. An example would be fascia. Fascia is a layer of tissue that is fibrous and surrounds structures such as muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. It functions as a holding mechanism to keep these body structures aligned and supported, much like the cell membrane supports individual cells. The nerves and blood vessels themselves are also soft tissues, as is fat.
When people lose elasticity in the skin and develop wrinkles, they sometimes seek out treatments to counteract the aging process. Soft tissue fillers are sometimes used as these treatments. The fillers are injected into the skin to promote plumper, more elastic skin that appears more youthful.
Injuries to soft tissue cells are among the most common to humans. When key tissues, such as knee ligaments, are injured, pain and hardship using the knee may result. Though physicians can help in some ways, such as through pain management and physical therapy, many people with such injuries never regain a full use of the area again. Ankle sprains, tennis elbow, and many other common injuries are other examples of such injuries.
To protect soft tissues from damage, people are often advised to warm up the body prior to engaging in strenuous physical activity. This may include anything from sports, to high impact exercise, to lifting heavy items on the job. Taking a break when the body begins to feel strain is also important in preserving soft tissues.