Re-examination of the possible role of Golgi tendon organ and muscle spindle reflexes in proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation muscle stretching

Sports Biomech. 2004 Jan;3(1):159-83. doi: 10.1080/14763140408522836.


Literature concerning the theoretical role of spinal reflex circuits and their sensorimotor signals in proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) muscle stretching techniques was examined. Reviewed data do not support the assertion commonly made in PNF literature that contraction of a stretched muscle prior to further stretch, or contraction of opposing muscles during muscle stretch, produces relaxation of the stretched muscle. Further, following contraction of a stretched muscle, inhibition of the stretch reflex response lasts only 1 s. Studies examined suggested that decreases in the response amplitude of the Hoffmann and muscle stretch reflexes following a contraction of a stretched muscle are not due to the activation of Golgi tendon organs, as commonly purported, but instead may be due to presynaptic inhibition of the muscle spindle sensory signal. The current view on the complex manner by which the spinal cord processes proprioceptive signals was discussed. The ability of acute PNF stretching procedures to often produce a joint range of motion greater than that observed with static stretching must be explained by mechanisms other than the spinal processing of proprioceptive information. Studies reviewed indicate that changes in the ability to tolerate stretch and/or the viscoelastic properties of the stretched muscle, induced by PNF procedures, are possible mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Elasticity
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Spindles / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Reflex, Abnormal / physiology
  • Reflex, Stretch / physiology*
  • Sports Medicine / methods