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Effect of static stretching on properties of the plantar-flexor muscles

PainSci » bibliography » Guissard et al 2004
Tags: treatment, stretch, plantar fasciitis, foot, exercise, self-treatment, muscle, leg, limbs, pain problems, overuse injury, injury, tendinosis

Two articles on PainSci cite Guissard 2004: 1. Quite a Stretch2. Complete Guide to Plantar Fasciitis

PainSci notes on Guissard 2004:

In a small group of patients, researchers attempted to determine if 30 sessions of static stretch training would make a different in the plantar-flexor muscles used to assist range of motion in the ankle. There were minor changes for a while and there were differences in the neural and mechanical adaptations from patient to patient. The researchers concluded/speculated that “the increased flexibility results mainly from reduced passive stiffness of the muscle-tendon unit and tonic reflex activity.”

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

To determine the contributions of neural and mechanical mechanisms to the limits in the range of motion (ROM) about a joint, we studied the effects of 30 sessions of static stretch training on the characteristics of the plantar-flexor muscles in 12 subjects. Changes in the maximal ankle dorsiflexion and the torque produced during passive stretching at various ankle angles, as well as maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and electrically induced contractions, were recorded after 10, 20, and 30 sessions, and 1 month after the end of the training program. Reflex activities were tested by recording the Hoffmann reflex (H reflex) and tendon reflex (T reflex) in the soleus muscle. Training caused a 30.8% (P < 0.01) increase in the maximal ankle dorsiflexion. This improved flexibility was associated (r(2) = 0.88; P < 0.001) with a decrease in muscle passive stiffness and, after the first 10 sessions only, with a small increase in passive torque at maximal dorsiflexion. Furthermore, both the H- and T-reflex amplitudes were reduced after training, especially the latter (-36% vs. -14%; P < 0.05). The MVC torque and the maximal rate of torque development were not affected by training. Although the changes in flexibility and passive stiffness were partially maintained 1 month after the end of the training program, reflex activities had already returned to control levels. It is concluded that the increased flexibility results mainly from reduced passive stiffness of the muscle-tendon unit and tonic reflex activity. The underlying neural and mechanical adaptation mechanisms, however, showed different time courses.

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