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Can apparent increases in muscle extensibility with regular stretch be explained by changes in tolerance to stretch?

PainSci » bibliography » Folpp et al 2006
updated
Tags: stretch, exercise, self-treatment, treatment, muscle

One article on PainSci cites Folpp 2006: Quite a Stretch

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.

The aim of this study was to determine whether an intensive stretch program increases muscle extensibility or subjects' tolerance to an uncomfortable stretch sensation. Twenty healthy able-bodied individuals with limited hamstring muscle extensibility were recruited. A within-subjects design was used whereby one leg of each subject was randomly allocated to the experimental condition and the other leg was allocated to the control condition. The hamstring muscles of each subject's experimental leg were stretched for 20 minutes each weekday for four weeks. Hamstring muscle extensibility (angle of hip flexion corresponding with a standardised torque) and stretch tolerance (angle of hip flexion corresponding with maximal torque tolerated) were assessed on both legs at the beginning and end of the study. The intervention did not increase the extensibility of the hamstring muscles (mean change in hip flexion was -1 degree, 95% CI -4 to 3 degrees) but did increase subjects' tolerance to an uncomfortable stretch sensation (mean change in hip flexion was 8 degrees, 95% CI 5 to 12 degrees). These results highlight the importance of distinguishing between real and apparent increases in muscle extensibility when assessing the effectiveness of stretch, and indicate that whilst a four-week stretch program increases subjects' tolerance to an uncomfortable stretch sensation it does not increase hamstring muscle extensibility.

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