Effects of static forehead and forearm muscle tension on total respiratory resistance in healthy and asthmatic participants


Address reprint requests to: Thomas Ritz, Department of Psychology, St. George's Hospital Medical School, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE, UK.


The impact of static muscle tension on total respiratory resistance (TRR) was examined. Participants (24 healthy, 24 asthmatic) performed biofeedback-assisted sequences of tensing (15 s) and relaxing (20 s) forehead and forearm muscles. Muscle tension levels were 40% or 80% of the maximum individual force. Oscillatory TRR, electromyograms, ventilation, heart period, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia were recorded. Baseline TRR did not change over the session as a whole. Decreases in TRR during forehead tension in both groups were accompanied by increases in end-expiratory volume, which could have mediated TRR changes. During forearm tension, decreases in TRR with minimal ventilation changes were only observed in healthy participants, whereas asthmatic patients revealed marked increases in respiratory volume and flow. These results indicate that static muscle activity and TRR are negatively related. Ventilatory changes can exaggerate or diminish evidence for this relationship.