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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2016 May 1;310(9):H1210-21. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00732.2015. Epub 2016 Mar 4.

Influence of passive stretch on muscle blood flow, oxygenation and central cardiovascular responses in healthy young males.

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Human Integrative and Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory, Department of Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa; and
Cardiopulmonary and Metabolism Research Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio.


The aim of this study was to examine the effect of skeletal muscle stretching on peripheral, central, and autonomic cardiovascular responses in humans. Twelve healthy males completed a controlled passive stretch of the plantar flexors for 4 min at three different intensities. Doppler ultrasound velocimetry and imaging techniques assessed mean leg blood flow (MLBF), antegrade blood flow, and retrograde blood flow of the popliteal artery. Near-infrared spectroscopy assessed the concentration of deoxygenated hemoglobin + myoglobin ([HHb]) and the sum of its deoxygenated and oxygenated forms [i.e., blood volume ([Hbtot])]. Heart rate (HR) and mean arterial pressure were measured simultaneously to peripheral hemodynamic responses. During stretch there was an increase (P < 0.05) in antegrade and retrograde blood flow along with [HHb] and [Hbtot] relative to baseline, whereas MLBF was not altered. HR increased (P < 0.01) in a stretch intensity- and time-dependent manner, suggesting a threshold tension must be met that results in a mechanoreflex-mediated increase in HR. After stretch there was an increase (P < 0.05) in [Hbtot] and MLBF in each condition, suggesting that stretch creates a poststretch hyperemic response. Furthermore, retrograde blood flow was decreased (P < 0.05) after stretch in each stretch condition. Mean arterial pressure was decreased (P < 0.05) after moderate-intensity stretching. Collectively, our data provide novel mechanistic evidence on cardiovascular responses to skeletal muscle stretching in humans. Moreover, the reductions in MAP and retrograde blood flow suggest that stretch transiently reduces myogenic vascular tone in a poststretch resting period.


mechanoreflex; skeletal muscle

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