Soft tissue sarcoma

You are here: 

Anatomy and physiology of soft tissue

Soft tissue is found all over the body. It includes tissues that connect, support or surround other structures and organs in the body. Types of soft tissue include:

  • fat
  • muscle
  • fibrous tissue (tendons and ligaments)
  • synovial tissue (in joints)
  • blood vessels
  • lymph vessels
  • peripheral nerves

Diagram of the soft tissues of the body

Structure and function

Different types of soft tissue have different jobs. They give shape to and support the body. They also protect other body tissues and structures and hold them together.


There are fat cells all over the body. They are found under the skin, between other tissues and between organs. Fat protects and cushions the body. It also helps keep you warm. The body stores fat and uses it for energy when needed. Fat tissue is also called adipose tissue.


There are 3 types of muscle tissue: smooth, skeletal and cardiac. Each type of muscle does different things.

Smooth muscle is also called visceral muscle. It is found in the walls of the body’s hollow organs, such as the stomach, intestines, bladder, uterus and blood vessels. Smooth muscle allows organs to relax and get bigger (expand) or tighten and get smaller (contract). These muscles are involuntary, which means you can’t control their movement.

Skeletal muscle is also called striated muscle. It is found mainly in muscles that attach to bones. Some skeletal muscles in the face attach to the skin. Skeletal muscle keeps the skeleton together and helps you stand upright. It also allows you to move different parts of your body such as your arms and legs.

Cardiac muscle is only in the heart. It forms the walls of the heart and allows the heart to pump blood. Cardiac muscle is also involuntary, which means you can’t control, stop or start the action of the heart muscle.

Fibrous tissue

Fibrous tissue is made up of rope-like structures called fibres. It surrounds blood vessels and nerves and supports many organs.

Fibrous tissue is also found in tendons and ligaments, which help you move and provide support, strength and flexibility. Tendons are bands of strong fibrous tissue that connect muscles to bones. Ligaments have more elastic fibres than tendons. They connect bones to other bones at the joints.

Synovial tissue

Synovial tissue is thin, loose tissue that lines joints, such as the elbow and knee. It is also found around tendons and the bursa (a fluid-filled, cushioning sac between bones and tendons).

Blood vessels

Blood vessels are long, elastic hollow tubes that run all over the body. They include arteries, veins and capillaries. Blood travels through blood vessels, carrying oxygen, nutrients, hormones, waste products and other substances around the body.

Lymph vessels

Lymph vessels are small, thin-walled tubes that run all over the body. They carry lymph fluid, a liquid that circulates through every tissue of the body. Lymph fluid has proteins, minerals and nutrients that nourish tissues. Lymph vessels also collect and carry damaged cells, cancer cells, waste products and foreign micro-organisms like bacteria and viruses. These are filtered from the lymph fluid by lymph nodes.

Peripheral nerves

The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous tissue (CNS). Peripheral nerves run from the spinal cord to all other parts of the body. Peripheral nerves have a covering called a sheath. The sheath forms a border around the nerve.

Peripheral nerves help you move and sense the world around you. They also control many important body functions. Peripheral nerves send messages from the spinal cord and brain to other parts of the body. They also send signals back to the spinal cord and brain.


Dr John Dick Solving the mysteries of cancer stem cells

Read more

Making progress in the cancer fight

Icon - arrow

The 5-year cancer survival rate has increased from 25% in the 1940s to 60% today.

Learn more