Muscle thixotropy—where are we now?

Martin Lakie, Kenneth S. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Relaxed skeletal muscle has an inbuilt resistance to movement. In particular, the resistance manifests itself as a substantial stiffness for small movements. The stiffness is impermanent, because it forms only when the muscle is stationary for some time and is reduced upon active or passive movement. Because the resistance to movement increases with time at rest and is reduced by movement, this behavior has become known as muscle thixotropy. In this short review, we describe the phenomenon of thixotropy and illustrate its significance in postural control with particular emphasis on human standing. We show how thixotropy came to be unambiguously associated with muscle mechanics and we review present knowledge of the molecular basis of thixotropic behavior. Specifically, we examine how recent knowledge about titin, and about the control of cross-bridge cycling, has impacted on the role of non-cross-bridge mechanisms and cross-bridge mechanisms in explaining thixotropy. We describe how thixotropic changes in muscle stiffness that occur during transitions from posture to movement can be tracked by analyzing physiological tremor. Finally, because skeletal muscle contains sensory receptors, and because some of these receptors are themselves thixotropic, we outline some of the consequences of muscle thixotropy for proprioception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1790-1799
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 the American Physiological Society


  • Movement
  • Muscle thixotropy
  • Posture
  • Relaxed muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Muscle thixotropy—where are we now?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this