Sensory Stimulation of the Triceps Surae Muscle Complex Modulates Spinal Reflex Responses-A Comparison between Tapotement Massage and Repetitive Peripheral Magnetic Stimulation (rPMS)

Brain Sci. 2024 Jan 24;14(2):119. doi: 10.3390/brainsci14020119.


Background: The reduction of muscular hypertonia is important in the treatment of various diseases or rehabilitation. This study aims to test the efficacy of a 5 Hz mechanical muscle stimulation (tapotement massage) in comparison to a 5 Hz repetitive peripheral magnetic stimulation (rPMS) on the neuromuscular reflex response.

Methods: In a randomized control trial, 15 healthy volunteers were administered with either 5 Hz rPMS, tapotement massage, or rPMS sham stimulation. The posterior tibial nerve was stimulated with rPMS and sham stimulation. The Achilles tendon was exposed to a mechanically applied high-amplitude 5 Hz repetitive tendon tapotement massage (rTTM). The tendon reflex (TR) was measured for the spinal response of the soleus muscle.

Results: After rPMS, there was a reduction of the TR response (-9.8%, p ≤ 0.034) with no significant changes after sham stimulation. Likewise, TR decreased significantly (-17.4%, p ≤ 0.002) after Achilles tendon tapotement intervention.

Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that both afferent 5 Hz sensory stimulations contributed to a modulation within the spinal and/or supraspinal circuits, which resulted in a reduction of the spinal reflex excitability. The effects could be beneficial for patients with muscle hypertonia and could improve the functional results of rehabilitation programs.

Keywords: cerebral palsy; motoneuron; muscle stiffness; neurorehabilitation; sensory afferents; spasticity; tapotement massage; tendon reflex.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.