Altered Reflex Sensitivity After Repeated And Prolonged Passive Muscle Stretching
Experiments were carried out to test the effect of prolonged and repeated passive stretching (RPS) of the triceps surae muscle on reflex sensitivity. The results demonstrated a clear deterioration of muscle function immediately after RPS. Maximal voluntary contraction, average electromyographic activity of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles, and zero crossing rate of the soleus muscle (recorded from 50% maximal voluntary contraction) decreased on average by 23.2, 19.9, 16.5, and 12.2%, respectively. These changes were associated with a clear immediate reduction in the reflex sensitivity; stretch reflex peak-to-peak amplitude decreased by 84.8%, and the ratio of the electrically induced maximal Hoffmann reflex to the maximal mass compound action potential decreased by 43.8%. Interestingly, a significant ( P < 0.01) reduction in the stretch-resisting force of the measured muscles was observed. Serum creatine kinase activity stayed unaltered. This study presents evidence that the mechanism that decreases the sensitivity of short-latency reflexes can be activated because of RPS. The origin of this system seems to be a reduction in the activity of the large-diameter afferents, resulting from the reduced sensitivity of the muscle spindles to repeated stretch.