Connective tissue formation following muscle injury and remedial surgery may involve changes in the stiffness and configuration of the connective tissues linking adjacent muscles. We investigated changes in mechanical interaction of muscles by implanting either a tissue-integrating mesh (n = 8) or an adhesion barrier (n = 8) to respectively increase or decrease the intermuscular connectivity between soleus muscle (SO) and the lateral gastrocnemius and plantaris complex (LG+PL) of the rat. As a measure of mechanical interaction, changes in SO tendon forces and proximal-distal LG+PL force differences in response to lengthening LG+PL proximally were assessed 1 and 2 weeks post-surgery. The extent of mechanical interaction was doubled 1 week post-implantation of the tissue-integrating mesh compared to an unaffected compartment (n = 8), and was more than four times higher 2 weeks post-surgery. This was found only for maximally activated muscles, but not when passive. Implanting the adhesion barrier did not result in a reduction of the mechanical interaction between these muscles. Our findings indicate that the ratio of force transmitted via myofascial, rather than myotendinous pathways, can increase substantially when the connectivity between muscles is enhanced. This improves our understanding of the consequences of connective tissue formation at the muscle boundary on skeletal muscle function.
Keywords: Muscle injury; gastrocnemius; myofascial force transmission; scar tissue; soleus; stiffness; synergists.
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.