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J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Jan;27(1):159-65. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182518023.

Responsiveness of muscle tone characteristics to progressive force production.

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Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Jyvaskyla Central Hospital, Finland.


It is possible to measure muscle tone reliably, quickly and objectively using tonometers although they are not yet widely used. In clinical practice, it may be helpful if clinicians could assess the degree of contraction in different parts of a muscle without having to perform time-consuming electromyography measurements. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the responsiveness of different muscle tone characteristics to progressively increased contraction force of quadriceps muscle. Twenty healthy subjects (mean age 39.9 years, 50% women) volunteered. Using 2 different tonometers various muscle viscoelastic properties were measured. The frequency (hertz), logarithmic decrement, and stiffness (newtons per meter) of damped mechanical oscillation of the muscle tissue and tissue compliance (millijoules) were registered from rectus femoris muscle at rest and 20, 40, 60, 80% of maximal voluntary contraction determined using dynamometry. All the values changed linearly with increasing force level. Compliance, oscillation stiffness, and frequency parameters showed large effect sizes (ESs ≥ 0.8). The standardized respoknse mean for compliance was 5.3 (4.8-5.7) mJ, for oscillation stiffness 1.8 (1.3-2.2) N·m(-1), frequency 1.1 (0.6-1.5) Hz, and decrement -0.6 (-1.0 to -0.2). The results indicate that the compliance and oscillation stiffness parameters showed the highest responsiveness and can thus best detect changes in muscle contraction state. The additional value of using tonometers to measure these properties in clinical practice should be investigated further.

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