Muscle Spindles vs. Golgi Tendon Organs

Jul 07, 2022

Photo Credit: Kin Kate

What the heck is the difference?

Muscle spindles are small muscle fibers (intrafusal fibers) within the contractile muscles of the muscle fiber itself that are sensory, meaning they communicate back to the spinal cord and brain through nerves and then back to the same muscle. 

  • they sense muscle stretch
  • cause muscle activation
  • facilitates muscle movement

For example in a baseball pitch in the lay-back phase (pulling the arm back behind the head) the muscle spindles sense the stretch and cause the muscle contraction. 

The golgi tendon organ is not within the muscle like the spindles, it is situated inside of the tendon. The tendon is the tissue that connects the muscle to the bone. There are thousands of these GTOs inside the tendon. 

  • they sense tension within the tendon 
  • causes muscle inhibition
  • prevents overstretching of the muscle and facilitates relaxation

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Edited by Danielle Abel, MSN, FNMS(c), CSCS(c)


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