Tensegrity - do bones hold our muscles or do muscles hold our bones?

Updated: Nov 29, 2019

Reading Jules Mitchell's The Science of Stretching: A Review

Mitchell, Jules, M.S., California State University, Long Beach, 2015,

Bones are connected to each other through ligaments and muscles are connected to the bones through tendons. In this conceptual framework skeletal muscles help hold the skeleton together. Nevertheless, understanding the body in terms of an architectural structure, this relationship becomes much more complex.

The concept of tensegrity is an architectural term that was first described by Buckminster Fuller (Reference) It is defined as a balance of discontinuous compression elements, which are connected by continuous tension forces, which allow any system to exist in balance. Expressed in a living form, Dr. Stephen Levine defined it as, biotensegrity (Reference).

Applying biotensegrity to the human body it would be not be the muscle structures alone holding bones, but rather the tension structure as a whole, the fascia network, what holds the bones in place. Connective tissues are the continuous tensional elements, sustaining the entire structure’s tension and distributing stress equally. Bones are the discontinuous compressional elements of the body. A single joint action or muscle activity in this framework never occurs isolated. Forces communicate multidirectional through connective tissues. This means that local changes in compression cause responses in tension throughout the complete structure; loads distribute to all components, even those furthest away. Deep fascia is being studied for playing an integral role in terms of sensory input and motor output. Movement therefore is an interaction of muscle contractions in relation to the mechanical behavior of fascia and connective tissue (Smith, 2006). Within this framework, anatomy of the human body becomes something fluent. We cannot really separate these structures from each other as they are interconnecting and merging as a continuum.

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