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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2019 Jun 1;126(6):1790-1799. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00788.2018. Epub 2019 May 9.

Muscle thixotropy-where are we now?

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School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, University of Birmingham , Birmingham , United Kingdom.
Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, University of Kentucky , Lexington, Kentucky.


Relaxed skeletal muscle has an inbuilt resistance to movement. In particular, the resistance manifests itself as a substantial stiffness for small movements. The stiffness is impermanent, because it forms only when the muscle is stationary for some time and is reduced upon active or passive movement. Because the resistance to movement increases with time at rest and is reduced by movement, this behavior has become known as muscle thixotropy. In this short review, we describe the phenomenon of thixotropy and illustrate its significance in postural control with particular emphasis on human standing. We show how thixotropy came to be unambiguously associated with muscle mechanics and we review present knowledge of the molecular basis of thixotropic behavior. Specifically, we examine how recent knowledge about titin, and about the control of cross-bridge cycling, has impacted on the role of non-cross-bridge mechanisms and cross-bridge mechanisms in explaining thixotropy. We describe how thixotropic changes in muscle stiffness that occur during transitions from posture to movement can be tracked by analyzing physiological tremor. Finally, because skeletal muscle contains sensory receptors, and because some of these receptors are themselves thixotropic, we outline some of the consequences of muscle thixotropy for proprioception.


movement; muscle thixotropy; posture; relaxed muscle

[Available on 2020-06-01]

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