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Massage Therapist Need To Understand Golgi Tendons Organs & Muscle Spindle Cells

Jan 31, 2008
As a massage therapist it is vital to know the various parts of the human body and understand their significance. Two terms that you should know and understand are Golgi tendons and muscle spindle cells. As a massage therapist it is important to know these two sensory neuron proprioceptors and know what they do. The muscle spindle, for instance, is a proprioceptor that relays information regarding changes in the length of muscles.

The Golgi tendon is a different type of proprioceptor that relays information regarding muscle tension changes. These two proprioceptors are important for stretching muscles and conditioning muscles. Together they help to protect the muscles from overstretching and becoming injured. First, though, it is important to know what each is and its particular function.

What are Sensory Neurons

Neurons are cells that work to carry messages through the body. The neurons are responsible for telling you to bend your finger or flex your foot. They also make sure that you don't overstretch your muscle or apply too much tension to a tendon, thus avoiding injury. Every neuron is comprised of a cell body and nerve fibers. It is the nerve fibers that receive impulses from other neurons and then send that information to the cell body. The fibers then send the impulses away from the cell body to other neurons.

The Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindle cells are both sensory neurons called proprioceptors. These sensory neurons are located in nerves and tracts but their cell bodies are found just outside of the spinal cord. They move messages from sensory organs in the tendons and muscles to the spinal cord. Some of these neuron fibers are called proprioceptive fibers. These fibers monitor the way that a muscle contracts and stretches as well as measures the tension that is in a tendon and transmit's that information to the spinal cord so that the information can be processed. This feedback allows the body to know positions and postures of the limbs even when they cannot be seen.

What are Golgi Tendons

Golgi tendon organs are located in the collagen fibers of the tendon at the point where the tendon fibers merge with the muscle fibers. While they function in a manner that is similar to muscle spindle cells in that they measure muscle changes, they only become activated when there is contraction of the tendon. They also monitor changes in the tension of the muscle that comes from a change of the muscle length. When the tendon or muscle is overstrained, it sends a message to the muscle which causes it to relax. This is important for preventing injury.

What are Muscle Spindle Cells

Muscle spindle cells are located in the muscle fibers, parallel to them. Their function is to monitor and measure muscle length on a continual basis, both when the muscle is at rest and when it is stretched as well as the speed of changes in muscle length. The muscle spindle cell is located inside the muscle while the Golgi is located at the end of the muscle.

How do the Golgi Tendon Organs and Muscle Spindle Cells Work Together

The muscle spindle cells have a very effective working relationship with the Golgi tendon organs. The muscle spindle monitors the changes in length and the speed of those changes within the muscle. It sends the message to the spine to convey the information to trigger the stretch reflex. This stretch reflex, for which the Golgi tendon organs are a part, tries to stop the change of the length of the muscle. This is a protective feature of the human body that prevents injury. The more the muscle tries to stretch and the faster it tries to stretch, the more the Golgi tendon organs cause it to contract. Over time, the muscles can be trained so that the stretch reflex allows for more and more of a stretch before contracting.

As a massage therapist it is important that you understand how the Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindle cells work together to prevent injury to muscles. As you work and stretch the muscles of your client, you must pay attention to the response of their body. Learn to detect the muscle spindle cell's span and ability to stretch, but also learn how to detect when the Golgi tendon organs begin to work to prevent injury. Then learn how to work with that push-pull action to help lengthen the muscle and increase the muscle spindle cell's ability to stretch the muscle until the Golgi tendon organs attempt to stop the stretch. This will help you prevent injury to your client and help them work with sports injuries.
About the Author
Robert C. Vignoli has been a massage therapist for over 10 years. He currently co-owns Roman Paradigm Massage, but now he is helping to improve the massage industry by building a "hands off" massage business model. MassageSpace.net is the new MySpace for Massage Therapist, learn more @ http://www.think-diagonal.com
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