Is quadriceps H-reflex excitability a risk factor for patellofemoral pain? Academic Article uri icon


  • Patellofemoral pain (PFP) is one of the most common conditions in orthopedic practice while recent evidence has suggested that it may be a predisposing factor to patellofemoral osteoarthritis. In addition to biomechanical alterations associated with the pathomechanisms underlying PFP, the investigation of neurophysiological alterations has provided novel information in the understanding of the pathophysiology of PFP. For instance, women with PFP present lower amplitude of the vastus medialis (VM) H-reflexes compared to pain-free controls, which suggests that the excitability of spinal reflexes might be a promising tool for discriminating woman with PFP in clinical practice. However, the cross-sectional design of the current research does not inform whether the reduced excitability predisposes to or is the consequence of PFP. Therefore, two hypotheses can be raised: (1) the reduction in excitability of the α-motoneurons is a risk factor for PFP; Or, (2) the reduction in H-reflex excitability is a consequence of PFP due to pain. If the former hypothesis is proven correct, it may help in the early identification of individuals with PFP. If the latter, it may help understand the reduced excitability as a consequence of the long-term pain, which may be interfering in the recovery of individuals with PFP in a long-term basis. In addition, exploring such hypotheses may have direct rehabilitative and prevention implications for PFP and its putative progression to knee osteoarthritis.

publication date

  • 2017