Massage & Bodywork

MAY | JUNE 2016

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of the afferent nerve are compressed. This compression initiates communication with the central nervous system regarding the amount of tension generated in the muscle. GOLGI TENDON ORGAN FUNCTION If safe amounts of muscle tension are generated, the Golgi tendon organs will initiate an action called reciprocal inhibition. Reciprocal inhibition describes the relaxation of one muscle while the opposite is activated. When you lift an object of reasonable weight by gripping it and bending or flexing your elbow, the muscles that extend your fingers and elbow relax, allowing the motion to happen without resistance. This coordinated muscle activation and relaxation allows the body to move efficiently and not fight against itself. Appropriate give-and-take must occur between opposing muscle groups in order for smooth, coordinated movement to take place. Golgi tendon organs respond differently if muscle tension is perceived to be excessive or dangerous. In these situations, they initiate the inverse myotatic reflex. When muscles generate excessive tension, the Golgi tendon organs will inhibit further muscle activation and force the muscles to relax. It also prompts the opposite muscle group to contract and shorten. Both actions decrease tension on the affected muscle. We see this response in cliff hanger movies when someone is hanging on for dear life and then his fingers just let go. This letting go is a function of the Golgi tendon organs inhibiting muscle activation to the overtense flexors, while simultaneously activating the opposing extensors, thus opening the hand. APPLICATION TO BODYWORK The activity of the Golgi tendon organs can be utilized during bodywork or self-stretching sessions to decrease muscle guarding or hypertonicity, increase the efficacy of tissue lengthening, increase range of motion, and activate inhibited muscles or muscle groups. One option is to utilize reciprocal inhibition to suppress activation of a target muscle. This is particularly useful to combat muscle cramps and reduce hypertonicity and guarding. The method uses isometric contraction of an opposing muscle or muscle group to prompt relaxation of the target muscle. Christy Cael is a licensed massage therapist, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and instructor at the Bodymechanics School of Myotherapy & Massage in Olympia, Washington. Her private practice focuses on injury treatment, biomechanical analysis, craniosacral therapy, and massage for clients with neurological issues. She is the author of Functional Anatomy: Musculoskeletal Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Palpation for Manual Therapists (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009). Contact her at functionalbook@hotmail.com. 46 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k m a y / j u n e 2 0 1 6 Reciprocal Inhibition: Hamstring Group Positioning: client supine, support leg with knee straight and hip passively flexed. 1. Locate the client's end range of motion for hip flexion. 2. Resist as the client gently flexes the hip. 3. The hamstring group (hip extensors) should be inhibited as the flexors are activated. 4. Increase the stretch by increasing passive hip flexion as the extensors relax. FUNCTIONAL ANATOMY

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