Laurie's Blogs.


Nov 2020

Knowledge Nuggets: Intensity of Stretching on ROM and Joint Mobilizations effect on Muscle Activation

by Laurie Edge-Hughes

Cat Stretch

I found a couple of articles about stretching or mobilization on muscle activation, and ROM that I thought to be worthy of sharing!

Here are the sources:

  1. Santos CX, Beltrão NB, Pirauá ALT, Durigan JLQ, Behm D, de Araújo RC. Static Stretching Intensity Does Not Influence Acute Range of Motion, Passive Torque, and Muscle Architecture. J Sport Rehabil. 2019 Mar 3:1-6. 
  2. Pfluegler G, Kasper J, Luedtke K. The immediate effects of passive joint mobilisation on local muscle function. A systematic review of the literature. Musculoskelet Sci Pract. 2020 Feb;45:102106. 



The first study looked at the intensity of stretching and whether stretching at a low intensity (a grade 1 – 2 out of 10 for ‘discomfort & tension’) compared to a high intensity (grade 9 – 10) had more of an impact on the range of motion (ROM), passive torque, and muscle architecture.  The results of this study were:

  • •Performing stretching exercises at high or low intensity acutely promotes similar gains in flexibility, that is, there are short-term/immediate gains in ROM but does not modify passive torque and muscle architecture.


The second study is a systematic review.  The main findings:


  • •There is a moderate level of evidence that joint mobilisation immediately decreases the activation of superficial muscles during low load conditions in symptomatic individuals. 
  • •For asymptomatic individuals, there is a low level of evidence that passive joint mobilisation improves maximum muscle strength when compared to sham mobilisation, opposed to a very low level of evidence suggesting no effect in symptomatic individuals. 
  • •The five studies reporting data on both, changes in muscle function as well as changes in pain, suggest that other, not pain-related mechanisms may play an important role regarding the reported improvement in muscle function.


So, if we think about this in our canine patients, it’s reassuring to know that you don’t have to abide by the ‘more is better’ principle.  Comfort should be key.  Not only is this good for us, the rehab practitioners, but also for the pet owners who might be less inclined to stretch to point that we might feel comfortable stretching the patient.


The review study is a bit more complicated, or shall we say interesting, to dissect.  So, if mobilizing a painful joint causes muscle inhibition, then we should think about using this treatment technique post-exercise within a treatment session.  We should also be concerned about mobilizing a joint immediately before a training or competition scenario.  The latter is something that I have advised clients of for years now.  What we don’t know is for how long is the muscle activation decreased after a joint mobilization.  Stretching can inhibit muscle function for up to 1 hour (or more…), is this the same with joint mobilizations?  I would be inclined to guess it to be similar.


All in all, these two studies give you some nice little ‘knowledge nuggets’ to tuck away for a time when you are presented with a case or scenario where they might come in handy to know!


On that note, have a smart week ahead!

Cheers!  Laurie