Muscle shortening induced by tenotomy does not reduce activity levels in rat soleus


Corresponding author G. C. B. Elder: Department of Kinesiology and Surgery, Dalhousie University, IWK-Grace Health Centre, 5850 University Avenue, PO Box 3070, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3J 3G9. Email:


  • 1A slow postural muscle was tenotomized to determine the role of muscle stretch on chronic recruitment patterns in freely moving animals.
  • 2Different amounts of muscle shortening were induced in the soleus muscles of ten rats by severing the tendon of insertion (n= 3), the whole Achilles' tendon (n= 4) or the origins and insertions (n= 3).
  • 3Bipolar wire electrodes were implanted on each muscle to record the electromyographic activity (EMG) under control and tenotomized conditions. The complex interference pattern was continuously analysed to determine the number and amplitude of peak potentials (called turns). The numbers of these ‘turns’ and their amplitudes were determined during 4 control and at least 5 experimental days. Sham-operated controls and groups matched according to the type of tenotomy were analysed for length changes and pathological changes 5 and 10 days post-tenotomy.
  • 4The total activity levels in all three tenotomy conditions were not significantly changed when compared with their own control levels. No differences in total activity level were found between the three tenotomized conditions.
  • 5The normal diurnal patterns of muscle recruitment were preserved during the tenotomized conditions, with the highest levels consistently occurring during the first 3 h of the dark cycle.
  • 6Tenotomy of the soleus, whether induced by distal (ST), distal and proximal (DT) or Achilles' tenotomy (AT) resulted in muscle shortening (9–26 %). No muscle pathology was found in the ST or AT groups. Degeneration was found in the DT group after 5 days, with further increases at 10 days.
  • 7These data suggest that the absence of stretch had no discernible influence on the aggregate activity levels in the slow postural soleus muscle. Whether tenotomy caused changes in recruitment within individual step cycles was not evaluated.