Reflex actions of knee joint afferents during contraction of the human quadriceps

Clin Physiol. 1990 Sep;10(5):489-500. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-097x.1990.tb00828.x.


(1) The spinal reflex actions of afferents stimulated by knee joint distension have been investigated in man. (2) Cannulation of the knee and infusion of saline raised intra-articular pressure, especially during quadriceps contraction. High pressures did not induce any sensation of pain. Pressure was taken as an index of joint proprioceptor activation. (3) Increased pressure progressively depressed the quadriceps H-reflex, both at rest and during quadriceps contraction. There was no indication of a threshold pressure for this inhibitory action. (4) It is concluded that joint distension inhibits quadriceps motoneurons through spinal pathways that still operate during voluntary contraction. These pathways could thus contribute to pathological weakness after joint injury. (5) Joint distension produced spatial facilitation of non-reciprocal inhibition of quadriceps H-reflexes from afferents in the tibial nerve.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • H-Reflex
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Knee Joint / innervation*
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Pressure
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Tibial Nerve / physiology


  • Sodium Chloride