golgi tendon organs | occipital fibers

A practical use of the golgi tendon mechanism

Written by: Mary C. Unger-Boyd
Advisor: Suzanne A. Seekins,  D.C.

The previous mentioned paper on the ‘Occipital Fiber System’ finds the explanation of this system in the presence of Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO) in the musculotendon junction of the neck muscles.

About the Golgi Tendon Organs

The function of the GTO is twofold:

  1. a dynamic response from sudden increases in tension and
  2. a static response of information of an instantaneous nature from the Central Nervous System (CNS) from varying degrees of tension on small segments of the muscle fibers. [1]

Golgi Tendon Organs are encapsulated mechanoreceptors present at the myotendinous and myoaponeurotic junctions of muscles. Within the tendon organ capsule are the terminal branches of large diameter afferent fiber – called Ib fiber – and are intertwined with collagen bundles. The other end is continuous with a fascicle of 5-25 muscle fibers, contributed by several motor units. [2]

The  contraction of these fibers exerts strain on the collagen’s bundles thus causing deformation of the sensory terminals. This is adequate stimulus of the tendon organ since it has a very low threshold A single fiber twitch can elicit a discharge from the receptor. The exact information to the Central Nervous System, though remains unanswered“, according to Jami [3]

Swete [4] reports that “morphological evidence gained from light and electron microscopy shows unmyelinated terminal branches of the Ib afferent fibers innervating the Golgi tendon Organ lie within the spaces between the braids of collagen. It is proposed that force applied to a muscle tendon will straighten these collagen braids and cause compressional deformation of the axon branches trapped between them“.

The mechanical event, presumed to occur in the GTO appears to explain how it may function as a biological force transducer under static loading conditions. This mechanical principal described for the GTO, he hypothesized, may be the mechanism employed by sensory receptors that function as position (and force) detectors. [2]


Golgi Tendon Organ

In Applied / Specialized Kinesiology it is readily observed that stretching the tendon sheath of the muscle (preferably the origin of the muscle) triggers a ‘weak’ muscle test response. Reversely a pinching of these areas show a ‘strong’ muscle test response.

About the Occipital Fiber System

The ‘Occipital Fiber’ is one of the most accurate means at the disposal of the Doctor of Chiropractic for the analysis of disease processes and a means of offering a prognosis as to the recovery of the patient.” [5]

An article on CATEGORY IV: OCCIPITAL ANALYSIS [6] states:
“DeJarnette’s  techniques class  lecturer at the Nebraska College in 1924 – Dr Carl Hawkin – had taught that the occipital condyle subluxation was very important. DeJarnette stated that he noticed – while palpating the occipital condyles – that he would consistently find painful fibres on other areas of the occipital bone. [6]

By 1930, he came to realize that no mention of occipital fibres was made in any written treatise. Around this time DeJarnette had only one occipital l line and working with Bings Laws of ascention he mapped out the interconnectedness between dorsal and lumbar sensory fibres and the nature of their  reflex to occipital, cervical and sacral segments.

By 1949, the three separate occipital lines were described and it wasn’t realized fully that

  1. line 2 concerned the viscera until 1953 and that
  2. line 3 concerned structural changes in the tissues collagen makeup until 1955.
Occipital Lines

Occipital Lines

Occipital Lines

The three lines of the occiput had been designated different names by the late 1940’s.

  • Line 1 is termed the “cerebrospinal fluid  (CSF) line”. It indicates any interference to the normal flow and pressure of the cerebro spinal fluid which has reflexed to one of the seven areas on each side of the superior occiput, fourteen areas in total the presentation of such is dependent on the level of the fluid interference.
    The thing to know about line 1 fibres is that they are always present. Tthat is, unlike line 2 and line 3 which have no normal fibre formations. That is to say, that fibres felt on lines 2 and line 3 are formed upon reflex action.
    Line 1 fibres can always be felt which makes them good starting points for the work.
  • Line 2 is designated the “Viscus reflex line”. This line will exhibit a raised and painful fibre when a specific viscus is delivering an over abundance of sensory impulses to the spinal cord at that involved level.
  • Line 3 is the “Structural line”. It becomes involved when any of the tissues of the body undergo pathological changes due to any cause.”
Ofcoarse there is much more to understand and read about this subject. I suggest you look for SOT and CMRT.
In short:
Line 1 is to be felt like ‘tension’, which translates in a tight membrane.
Line 2 is felt like a ‘painful area’ (correlated to a specific organ and
Line 3 is experiencing a ‘distinctive hardend fiber’. Sign of a pathological change due to any cause.

 Golgi Tendon organs and Occipital Fibers

Now you have a feeling of these two, I add these two together in a practical application for you – and I – to use in our daily practice as a standard pre-emptive healing procedure:

  1. Activate the Golgi Tendon Organ reflex – Somewhere in your routine fit the push from the occiput up as to stretch the neck muscles.
  2. Check for ‘weak’ muscle test – Under normal conditions the surrogate muscle test should now test ‘weak’.
  3. If NOT ‘weak’ correct this area – Now that you have established that this area is not working ‘normal’ you know you have to do some adjustments here, Explore to find if there is a case of tension (1), pain (2) , hardend fiber (3). The easiest correction is to hold an put pressure on these areas the muscle test shows indicator changes.
  4. Retest.

Huib Salomons – Practitioner Specialized Kinesiology


1. Buddingh, C. Curtis, ‘Occipital Fiber Nutrition: Chiropractic Manipulative Reflex Technique’, Sacro Occipital Research Society International, 1990.
2. http://www.logan.edu/mm/files/LRC/Senior-Research/1997-Apr-41.pdf
3. Jami, L., ‘Functional Properties of the Golgi Tendon Organ’. Arch. Int. Physiol. Biochem. 1988 Sept. 96 (4). P. A363-78.
4. Swett, Je.E., ‘Mechanical Transduction in the Golgi Tendon Organ: A Hypothesis’. Arch. Italian BioI. 1975 Dec. P 374-82.
5. De Jarnette, Major B., ‘Philosophv. Art & Science of Sacro Occipital Technic’. Self-published Nebraska City, NE, 1981.
6. http::/www.soto.net.au/_literature_62017/Winter_2007

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