The immune system, connective tissue and manual therapies

What do these 3 things have in common? Dr Helene Langevin from Canada has been doing some very interesting research and what she is finding is re-defining our beliefs and knowledge of human anatomy. Her work is proving that the different components and systems in the body such as bones, muscles, nervous system, cardiovascular system etc are not separate systems functioning independently but rather they are deeply interconnected and inseparable (sounds a bit familiar from a yoga perspective!)

She is finding through her research that connective tissue is the home of the immune system. Latest thinking around connective tissue is it comprises muscles, tendons, fascia, ligaments and other soft tissue networks. So it can be said that connective tissue is part of the immune and muscular system.
Connective tissue is “… a container for immune exchanges to occur throughout the body” (Ref 1) also it “ acts like a conduit through which water, proteins and immune cells return to the blood via lymphatics” (Ref 1). When the immune cells leave the blood stream to fight an intrusion/problem, they go to the connective tissues and the lymphatic system then drains the connective tissues.

Dr Langevin also discovered that manual therapies like acupuncture and massage provide mechanical stimulation of connective tissue which has a beneficial effect on immune system and healing. Further then yoga can seen as a manual therapy. Massage and other manual therapies generally apply a pressure and/or shear force to the tissues which in turn impacts the immune system. She discovered this by doing gentle stretching to mice and measuring immune responses, don’t worry this was done in a very humane way, its like the mice where doing yoga!

So by stretching your body like what is done in yoga or when you get a massage then you are influencing the immune system and improving the functioning of the healing mechanisms. This improved healing has been seen in Dr Langevin’s laboratory work. This has far reaching potentional for treatment of illness and autoimmune disorders like cancer.

In simple terms for the average person wanting to look after themselves, some yoga, regular exercise, eating well and regular massage will definitely improve your health and well-being. The yogis, many thousands of years ago, knew this and now science is understanding how this happens. I look forward to seeing the results of Dr Langevin’s continued research – see Ref 2 for a podcast presenting more of her work.

Other people are also discovering the link between soft tissue, immune system and healing. The research of Dr. Robert Schleip where he studies the benefits of stretching is very interesting. If you resonate with the above content it’s well worth watching Dr. Schleip’s short Youtube clips – Ref 3 & 4.


Ref 1 – (see 5min mark)
Ref 2 –
Ref 3 –
Ref 4 –

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