Impact of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on passive viscoelastic components of the musculoarticular system

Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 10;11(1):18077. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-97621-9.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) produces skeletal muscle atrophy and weakness, leading to impairments of exercise performance. The mechanical work needed for movement execution is also provided by the passive tension developed by musculoarticular connective tissue. To verify whether COPD affects this component, the passive viscoelastic properties of the knee joint were evaluated in 11 patients with COPD and in 11 healthy individuals. The levels of stiffness and viscosity were assessed by means of the pendulum test, consisting in a series of passive leg oscillations. In addition, to explore the contribution of passive tension in the mechanical output of a simple motor task, voluntary leg flexion-extension movements were performed. Patients with COPD showed a statistically significant reduction in stiffness and viscosity compared to controls. Voluntary execution of flexion-extension movements revealed that the electromyographic activity of the Rectus Femoris and Biceps Femoris was lower in patients than in controls, and the low viscoelastic tension in the patients conditioned the performance of active movements. These results provide novel insights on the mechanism responsible for the movement impairments associated with COPD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joints / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / etiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Reflex