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The acute benefits and risks of passive stretching to the point of pain

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This study evaluated the acute effects of two different stretch intensities on muscle damage and extensibility.


Twenty-two physically active women (age 20 ± 1.0 years) were divided into two matched groups and undertook eight sets of 30-s passive hamstring stretching. One group stretched to the point of discomfort (POD) and the other to the point of pain (POP). Hamstring passive torque, sit and reach (S&R), straight leg raise (SLR), and markers of muscle damage were measured before, immediately after stretching and 24 h later.


S&R acutely increased and was still increased at 24 h with median (interquartile range) of 2.0 cm (0.5–3.75 cm) and 2.0 cm (0.25–3.0 cm) for POP and POD (p < 0.05), respectively, with no difference between groups; similar changes were seen with SLR. Passive stiffness fully recovered by 24 h and there was no torque deficit. A small, but significant increase in muscle tenderness occurred at 24 h in both groups and there was a very small increase in thigh circumference in both groups which persisted at 24 h in POP. Plasma CK activity was not raised at 24 h.


Stretching to the point of pain had no acute advantages over stretching to the discomfort point. Both forms of stretching resulted in very mild muscle tenderness but with no evidence of muscle damage. The increased ROM was not associated with changes in passive stiffness of the muscle but most likely resulted from increased tolerance of the discomfort.

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The present study does not constitute any financial funding. We would like to thank all of participants.

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Correspondence to Pornpimol Muanjai.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.

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Communicated by Olivier Seynnes.

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Muanjai, P., Jones, D.A., Mickevicius, M. et al. The acute benefits and risks of passive stretching to the point of pain. Eur J Appl Physiol 117, 1217–1226 (2017).

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