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Muscle stretching and motoneuron excitability.

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Laboratory of Biology, University of Brussels, Belgium.


Change of motoneuron excitability has been studied during the three basic modalities of slow or static stretching of the human soleus muscle. Tendon (T) and Hoffmann (H) reflexes were analyzed during static stretching (SS). The H response was compared in SS, in SS preceded by a maximal isometric contraction of the muscle or contraction-relaxation (CR) and during stretching of the muscle by contracting the antagonistic muscles (AC). During progressive dorsiflexion of the foot there is a significant difference (p less than 0.05) between T and H reflexes during SS, although the amplitude of direct motor (M) response, evoked by a maximal stimulation of the motor nerve, is not changed. The maximal joint mobilization during SS, CR and AC modalities appears to be closely related to the decrease in the H response during stretching. This decrease is significantly (p less than 0.05) smaller in SS than in AC or CR. In this last method, the duration of the maximal isometric contraction does not affect the results. In these three basic stretching procedures, the H reflex quickly recovers as soon as the manoeuvre is interrupted. It is suggested that changes in muscle motoneuron pool excitability closely control joint mobilization during slow or static stretching. The inhibition of the motoneurons observed during SS, CR and AC modalities is limited to the duration of the stretching manoeuvre.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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