Types and Functions of Connective Tissue Proper

You’ve probably heard the term connective tissue, and you probably just accepted that it was a part of the vast network of things going on underneath your skin. However, you probably don’t realize just how much of your body is made up of connective tissue, what it actually does in your body, and how important of a structure it really is.

The Encyclopedia Britannica defines connective tissue as a “group of tissues in the body that maintains the form of the body and its organs and provides cohesion and internal support.” Connective tissue is made up of cells and intracellular matrix (fluid outside the cells consisting of protein and polysaccharide matrix.)These tissues vary in size, structure, and density, determining the function they will perform in the body.

There are three main categories of connective tissue. This article focuses on connective tissue proper, but the other two are fluid connective tissue and supportive connective tissue.



The broad category of connective tissue proper consists of a variety of types of connective tissue. All types of connective tissue proper possess protein fibers embedded in ground substances. It is characterized by having more intracellular matrix than cells.


Loose connective tissue (LCT) is a loose, multidirectional weave of extracellular fibers, cells, and ground substances. These tissues are responsible for binding the epithelial (skin) cells to the underlying tissues, and providing support for the blood vessels and nerves that supply the subdermal layer. There are three types of LCT; areolar, adipose, and reticular.



Image by AnatomyBox; Notice the abundance of space between the cells and fibers. This is what makes areolar tissue a loose connective tissue.

Areolar connective tissue is one of the most abundant forms of loose connective tissue in the body. It consists of collagen, elastic, and reticular fibers, and it binds your skin to the underlying muscles. It can also be found in mucous membranes, around blood vessels, and around the organs. Its job is to provide support, strength, and elasticity.



Image by azcache.com

Your adipose is another abundant LCT, found just almost everywhere areolar tissue is. Adipose tissue is basically the soft stuff that makes your butt squishy. It is the cells that store triglycerides (fats), and lies directly underneath your skin, providing insulation. It also performs a protective function, surrounding some of your organs such as your kidneys, and providing padding to some delicate joints. It is also a means of storing energy, as excessive nutrients are converted to fat and stored in the adipose tissue.



Image by keyword-suggestions.com

Reticular connective tissue is a network of reticular cells made up of collagen. This type of tissue is found around the kidney, spleen, lymph nodes, and inside bone marrow. Reticular fibers protect lymph organs, hold together adipose tissue, and form the soft skeleton.



dense irregular

Image by med.uc.edu

Dense connective tissues (DCT) are made up of large fibers that give these structures considerable strength. The fibers of DCT are so numerous that there are hardly any open spaces between them. Protein is the main fiber in these types of tissues, with each type consisting mainly of collagen or elastic protein fibers. Collagen tissues are also referred to as white connective tissues and elastic tissues are referred to as yellow connective tissues.  These tissues are found wherever strength is especially important. Dense irregular connective tissues (DICT) have an irregular, dense weave of collagen and elastic fibers. It has a high tensile strength which allows it to passively transmit mechanical forces into all sorts of directions without tearing. It also binds different tissues together to form organs. It is found in the dermal layer of the skin, and walls of tubular organs, and in glandular tissue and organ capsules.


Other Blogs in This Series

Types of Supportive and Fluid Connective Tissue

Massage Benefits For Connective Tissue



Connective Tissue by Encyclopedia Britannica

Classification of Connective Tissue by the University of Leeds

Dense Connective Tissues by McGraw Hill

Dense Irregular Connective Tissue by Histology Olm

Loose Connective Tissue by Histology Olm

Loose Connective Tissues by McGraw Hill

Reticular Connective Tissue by Wikipedi

Types of Animal Tissue by Ivy Rose Holistic


About Tonya Sapiel, LMT

My goal with The Wellness Seeker blog is to educate the general public on the benefits of massage therapy, why it is an important addition to their health care routine, and what they can do to help themselves in between their massage therapy sessions. I welcome feedback and questions. I also accept requests for post topics. For more information about me or my practice, please visit www.tonyasapiel.massagetherapy.com

2 responses to “Types and Functions of Connective Tissue Proper

  1. Pingback: Massage Benefits For Connective Tissue | The Wellness Seeker

  2. Pingback: Types and Functions of Supportive and Fluid Connective Tissue | The Wellness Seeker

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