Reflex inhibition of thigh muscles in knee injury. Causes and treatment

Sports Med. 1989 Apr;7(4):263-76. doi: 10.2165/00007256-198907040-00004.


There are several common findings and contradictions noted in the research related to thigh muscle reflex inhibition and sequelae that occur with knee joint injury. Reflex inhibition may be measured directly by electromyography, or the sequelae of reflex inhibition may be measured, as commonly occurs in the clinic setting. Electromyography is useful in determining the causes of reflex inhibition. The most frequently cited causes of thigh muscle reflex inhibition in knee injury are pain, joint effusion and knee immobilisation. The other measurement methods described vary from thigh circumference measurement to muscle biopsy. These methods are useful in determining the magnitude and duration of the deleterious sequelae that affect the thigh muscles after reflex inhibition. Finally, there is selectivity of reflex inhibition after knee joint injury: the quadriceps versus the hamstrings, the different components of the quadriceps muscle group, and the different types of muscle fibres. In light of these findings, several suggestions have been offered for prevention of reflex inhibition and for techniques that can be applied to rehabilitate the most affected muscle group: the quadriceps femoris. Techniques used to prevent or limit the amount of reflex inhibition include cryotherapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, iontophoresis, phonophoresis, joint mobilisation, rest and proper positioning of the knee in rest and exercise. Electromyostimulation, electromyographic biofeedback and traditional exercise training are 3 methods used to rehabilitate the quadriceps.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Reflex, Abnormal / physiopathology*
  • Reflex, Abnormal / prevention & control
  • Thigh / physiopathology*