The effects of hamstring stretching on range of motion: a systematic literature review

updated
Tags: treatment, stretch, knee, exercise, self-treatment, muscle, leg, limbs, pain problems

One article on PainSci cites Decoster 2005: Quite a Stretch

PainSci notes on Decoster 2005:

Results were inconclusive as to whether or not any particular type of stretching could improve knee ROM. Overall, however, “the evidence appears to indicate that hamstring stretching increase range of motion,” regardless of the technique used. “Appears to indicate” is pretty inconclusive.

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.

STUDY DESIGN: Systematic literature review.

OBJECTIVE: Investigate the literature regarding the most effective positions, techniques, and durations of stretching to improve hamstring muscle flexibility.

BACKGROUND: Hamstring stretching is popular among physical therapists, athletic trainers, and fitness/coaching professionals; however, numerous stretching methodologies have been proposed in the literature. This fact establishes a need to systematically summarize available evidence in an attempt to determine the most effective stretching approach.

METHODS: A list of 28 pertinent manuscripts that included randomized and clinical trials was created according to specific inclusion/exclusion criteria. These manuscripts were critically reviewed for quality according to the Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) (10-point) scale and descriptive information about the stretching parameters employed in the research.

RESULTS: Cumulatively, 1338 healthy subjects were included in the reviewed studies. Methodological quality scores ranged from 2 to 8 (mean +/- SD, 4.3 +/- 1.6). Several methodological flaws were frequently recognized, including failure to conceal group allocation or perform blinded assessment. All studies reported improvements in range of motion after stretching.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, methodological quality was poor, with only 21.4% (6/28) of studies achieving a score between 6 and 8. Thus it was difficult to confidently identify 1 most effective hamstring stretching method. Instead, the evidence appears to indicate that hamstring stretching increases range of motion with a variety of stretching techniques, positions, and durations.

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