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Effect of chronic stretching interventions on the mechanical properties of muscles in patients with stroke: A systematic review

Abstract : Background Muscle contractures are common after stroke and their treatment usually involves stretching. However, recent meta-analyses concluded that stretching does not increase passive joint amplitudes in patients with stroke. The effectiveness of treatment is usually evaluated by measuring range of motion alone; however, assessing the effects of stretching on the structural and mechanical properties of muscle by evaluating the torque-angle relationship can help in understanding the effects of stretching. Although several studies have evaluated this, the effects remain unclear. Objective A systematic review of the literature on the effectiveness of stretching procedures for which the outcomes included a measurement of torque associated with range of motion or muscle structure (e.g., fascicle length) in stroke survivors. Methods PubMed, ScienceDirect and PEDro databases were searched by 2 independent reviewers for relevant studies on the effects of chronic stretching interventions (> 4 weeks) that evaluated joint angle and passive torque or muscle structure or stiffness. The quality of the studies was assessed with the PEDro scale. Results Eight randomized clinical trials (total of 290 participants) met the inclusion criteria, with highly variable sample characteristics (at risk/existing contractures), program objectives (prevent/treat contractures) and duration (from 4 to 52 weeks) and volume of stretching (1 to 586 hr). All studies were classified as high quality (> 6/10 PEDro score). Six studies focused on the upper limb. Many programs were less than 12 weeks (n = 7 studies) and did not change mechanical/structural properties. The longest intervention (52 weeks) increased muscle fascicle length and thickness (plantar flexors). Conclusion Long interventions involving high stretching volumes and/or loads may have effects on muscle/joint mechanical properties, for preventing/treating contractures after stroke injury, but need to be further explored before firm conclusions are drawn.
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Contributor : Bibliothèque Universitaire Université de Nantes <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, August 24, 2021 - 3:30:46 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, September 9, 2021 - 3:20:07 PM

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Thomas Lecharte, Raphaël Gross, Antoine Nordez, Guillaume Le Sant. Effect of chronic stretching interventions on the mechanical properties of muscles in patients with stroke: A systematic review. Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, Elsevier Masson, 2020, 63 (3), pp.222-229. ⟨10.1016/⟩. ⟨hal-03325264⟩



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