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Keywords:

  • bicycle;
  • blood pressure;
  • exercise;
  • muscle mechanoreflex;
  • pulsed compression

This study was designed to examine the hypothesis that a rhythmic mechanical compression of muscles would affect systemic blood pressure regulation at rest and during dynamic exercise in humans. We measured the changes in mean arterial pressure (MAP) occurring (a) at rest with pulsed (350 ms pulses at 50 pulses min–1) or static compression (50 and 100 mmHg) of leg muscles with or without upper thigh occlusion, and (b) during 12-min supine bicycle exercise (75 W, 50 r.p.m.) with or without pulsed compression (50, 100, 150 mmHg) of the legs in synchrony with the thigh extensor muscle contraction. At rest with thigh occlusion, MAP increased by 4–8 mmHg during static leg compression, and by 5–9 mmHg during pulsed leg compression. This suggests that at rest pulsed leg compression elicits a reflex pressor response of similar magnitude to that evoked by static compression. During dynamic exercise without leg compression, MAP (having risen initially) gradually declined, but imposition of graded pulsed leg compression prevented this decline, the MAP values being significantly higher than those recorded without pulsed leg compression by 7–10 mmHg. These results suggest that the rhythmic increase in intramuscular pressure that occurs during dynamic exercise evokes a pressor response in humans.