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ANATOMICAL AND PHYSIOLOGICAL TERMS

AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (ANS)

This is the part of the nervous system that is not typically consciously controlled. It is commonly divided into two usually antagonistic subsystems: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls such vital functions as heart rand breathing, and originates in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). See also, sypmathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system.

COLLAGEN

This is the second most prevalent structural material in the human body after water. Connective tissue, or fascia, is primarily made of collagen, elastin, and water. Collagen's main structural property is its great tensile strength. Therefore, tissues that contain more collagen than elastin, such as tendons, are resistant to pulling forces and are stronger in nature.

Connective tissue is any type of biological tissue with an extensive extra cellular matrix. It often serves to support, bind together, and protect the tissue. There are four basic types of connective tissue - bone, blood, cartilage, and connective tissue proper. Connective tissue proper includes dense connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons, loose connective tissue that helps hold organs in place, reticular connective tissue that forms a soft skeleton to support the lymphoid organs, and adipose or fat tissue.

ELASTIN

This is a protein in connective tissue that is elastic and allows many tissues in the body to resume their shape after stretching or contracting. Tissue with higher elastin content is less resistant and more easily stretched that tissue that is of higher collagen content.

EXTRACELLUAR MATRIX

This is any material that is part of a tissue but not part of any cell. It is the defining feature of connective tissue.

FASCIA

This refers to the specialized connective tissue layer which surrounds muscles, bones and joints, providing support and protection and giving structure to the body. It consists of three layers: the superficial facia, the deep fascia, and the subserous fascia. The particular fascia that surrounds the muscles is called myofascia. See also, myofascia.

JOINT CAPSULE

This is the connective tissue structure that encapsulates joints and plays an essential role in optimizing joint function both nutritionally and mechanically. The capsule has a fibrous outer layer that serves to enclose the joint structure and restrict its range of motion. The inner layer secretes synovial fluid, which lubricates and provides nutrients to the joint.

MYOFASCIA

This is the name of specialized connective tissue that surrounds each muscle and tendon, that merges with the fascia of the bone.

PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (PNS)

This is one of two divisions of the autonomic nervous system. Sometimes called the rest and digest system, the PNS conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and glandular activity, and relaxes the gastrointestinal tract. Traditionally it is said that the PNS acts in a reciprocal manner to the effects of the sympathetic nervous system. However, because some tissues are innervated by both systems, the effects are also synergistic. The cells of the PNS are located in the brain stem (cranium) and the sacral part of the central nervous system. See also autonomic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system.

SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM (SNS)

This is part of the autonomic nervous system, which also includes the parasympathetic nervous system. The SNS activates what is often termed the fight or flight response. Sympathetic nerves originate inside the vertebral column, toward the middle of the spinal cord, beginning at the first thoracic segment of the spinal cord and extending into the second or third lumbar segments. See also, autonomic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system.

TRACTION

This is the physical act of decompressing the two surfaces of a joint. Manually decompressing the joint surfaces triggers a stretch in the joint capsule. This response within the joint capsule causes reflexive relaxation of the muscles that share the same innervation source and cross on or near the joint.

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