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Local and Systemic Changes in Pain Sensitivity After 4 Weeks of Calf Muscle Stretching in a Nonpainful Population: A Randomized Trial

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BACKGROUND: Stretching is often used in clinical practice for a variety of purposes, including pain therapy. The possible mechanism behind the effect of stretching remains to be clarified.

AIM: To investigate whether 4 weeks of unilateral stretching of the calf muscles would affect local and central pain sensitivity.

METHOD: This study was a randomized assessor-blinded clinical study. Healthy participants (age 18 to 40) were included and randomized. Participants in the intervention group were instructed to perform 2 stretching exercises targeting the calf muscles; 3 times 30 seconds, 7 days a week for 4 weeks on the dominant leg. Participants in the control group were instructed not to do any stretching for 4 weeks. Pressure pain threshold (PPT) and temporal summation (TS) of pressure pain were measured on the stretched calf, the contra-lateral calf, and contra-lateral lower arm using a computerized cuff algometer. Analyses of variance on the per-protocol population (defined as participants that adhered to the protocol) were used to assess group differences in the changes from baseline.

RESULT: Forty healthy volunteers were included, of which 34 participants adhered to the protocol (15 intervention group/19 control group). No statistically significant group differences in the changes from baseline were found regarding PPT and TS measurements for the stretched calf, the contra-lateral calf, and the arm.

CONCLUSION: Four weeks of regular stretching of the calf muscles does not affect pressure pain sensitivity, suggesting that pressure pain sensitivity is unaffected by stretching in a healthy population. The mechanisms underlying any benefits of regular stretching remain to be explained.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPain practice : the official journal of World Institute of Pain
Volume16
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)696-703
ISSN1530-7085
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2016

ID: 46405776