Myofascial Force Transmission via Extramuscular Pathways Occurs between Antagonistic Muscles, 2008

Topics: Anterior crural compartment, Anterior tibial muscle, Connective tissue, Extensor digitorum longus muscle, Extensor hallucis longus muscle, Length-force characteristics, Myofascial force transmission, Peroneal compartment, Proximo-distal force difference, Rat model

Authors: Peter A. Huijing and Guus C. Baan


Most often muscles (as organs) are viewed as independent actuators. To test if this is true for antagonistic muscles, force was measured simultaneously at: (1) the proximal and distal tendons of the extensor digitorum muscle (EDL) to quantify any proximo-distal force differences, as an indicator of myofascial force transmission, (2) at the distal tendons of the whole antagonistic peroneal muscle group (PER) to test if effects of EDL length changes are present and (3) at the proximal end of the tibia to test if myofascially transmitted force is exerted there. EDL length was manipulated either at the proximal or distal tendons. This way equal EDL lengths are attained at two different positions of the muscle with respect to the tibia and antagonistic muscles. Despite its relatively small size, lengthening of the EDL changed forces exerted on the tibia and forces exerted by its antagonistic muscle group. Apart from its extramuscular myofascial connections, EDL has no connections to either the tibia or these antagonistic muscles. Proximal EDL lengthening increased distal muscular forces (active PER ΔF ≈ +1.7%), but decreased tibial forces (passive from 0.3 to 0 N; active ΔF ≈ –5%). Therefore, it is concluded that these antagonistic muscles do not act independently, because of myofascial force transmission between them. Such a decrease in tibial force indicates release of pre-strained connections. Distal EDL lengthening had opposite effects (tripling passive force exerted on tibia; active PER force ΔF ≈ –3.6%). It is concluded that the length and relative position of the EDL is a co-determinant of passive and active force exerted at tendons of nearby antagonistic muscle groups. These results necessitate a new view of the locomotor apparatus, which needs to take into account the high interdependence of muscles and muscle fibres as force generators, as well as proximo-distal force differences and serial and parallel distributions of sarcomere lengths that are consequences of such interaction. If this is done properly, the effects of integrating a muscle fibre, muscle or muscle group into higher levels of organisation of the body will be evident.

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