The ongoing myth of reciprocal inhibition….
This is a topic that is frequently discussed at both F.A.P. and F.R. seminars as the concept of ‘reciprocal inhibition’ remains a staple of many manual therapy approaches dispite the fact literature has disproven this theory. Here is an exerpt taken from ‘Evidence Based Sports Medicine’ by MacAuley and Best – chapter 7, written by Ian Shrier:
“PNF stretching is also an interesting example of how myths can be propagated within the medical literature. When it was first proposed in the early 1970s, PNF techniques were based upon the basic science finding that stretching/activity of the antagonist muscle creates reciprocal inhibition of the agonist muscle. When tested, PNF techniques were indeed shown to increase ROM more than static stretching. However, these initial studies did not measure muscle activity so the reason for the increased ROM was not known. In fact, when EMG was recorded in 1979, the reciprocal inhibition theory was disproved.(1) Although these results have been confirmed more recently, (2,3,4) the myth of reciprocal inhibition continues to be promoted in textbooks and the medical literature. In fact, muscles are electrically silient during normal stretches until the end ROM is neared. Suprisingly, PNF techniques actually increase the electrical activity of the muscle during the stretch, (1, 3-4) even though the range of motion is increased (2,1,5)