Definitions

Reciprocal inhibition

Reciprocal inhibition

Reciprocal inhibition describes muscles on one side of a joint relaxing to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint.

The body handles this pretty well during activities like running, where muscles that oppose each other are engaged and disengaged sequentially to produce coordinated movement. This facilitates ease of movement and is a safeguard against injury. Sometimes, for example, a football running back can experience a "misfiring" of motor units and end up simultaneously contracting the quads and hamstrings during a hard sprint. If these muscles, which act opposite to each other are fired at the same time, at a high intensity, a tear can result. The stronger muscle, usually the quadriceps in this case, overpowers the hamstrings. This sometimes results in an injury known as a pulled hamstring.

An important example of reciprocal inhibition is patellar tendon reflex.

The term reciprocal inhibition has also been used in the literature on parallel processing and lateralization. It was used to describe the reduced activation in the less dominant hemisphere in response to lateralized stimuli during processing. This term was used in Hirnstein, Hausmann, Gunturkun's (2008) article on Functional Cerebral Assymetries.

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