Stretching involves lengthening of tissues through movement of a joint through its whole range of motion.
Active and passive descriptions denote whether the patient actively contracts muscles to produce or help with the movement, or passively lets the therapist provide all the force for the movement.
How does it work?
The therapist will stabilize one side of muscle to be stretched, then use one or more of the joints that the muscle crosses to produce a stretch to the tissue.
They will then hold this position and encourage you to breath and relax. The amount of time held in this position will depend on the specific situational factors.
Stretching tissues is useful in the healing phases of muscle injuries, mobilizing scar or fibrous tissue to promote functional healing patterns.
From a neurological standpoint, stretching affects the nervous system by conditioning joints to move throughout their entire range in a pain-free manner. In turn, this helps patients learn how to move themselves in a pain-free manner in normal daily activities.
Benefits of active/passive assisted stretching
While research has shown that a lot of the commonly believed benefits of stretching do not seem to be true, there are still many other benefits to stretching.
Injury reduction, reducing or preventing muscle soreness, and increase sport performance appear to be unaffected by stretching. However, stretching does help decrease muscle hypertonicity (overly toned and tight muscles) and provide a sense of tension or pain relief. Stretching also aids functional healing, including scar and fibrous tissue formation. Stretching is also useful in restoring full joint range of motion and promoting pain-free movement.
Will it hurt?
Usually there is minimal or zero pain produced with stretching, however patients often feel tension or pulling from the positioning. In the case of an aggravated muscle, there can be mild to moderate pain.
The goal of most stretching is to elicit as little pain as possible, and wait for reductions in symptoms before progressing further into stretches.