The Influence of Superficial Pre-cooling on a Static Stretching Regimen: A Randomized Trial

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Background: The influence of superficial precooling on range of motion (ROM) as part of a stretching program has not been extensively studied. It is not clear if the analgesic effect can benefit a stretching program. Hypotheses: Superficial precooling will result in greater gains in ROM as part of a stretching program, compared with stretching without a precooling intervention. Superficial precooling will also result in greater retention in ROM gains following cessation of stretching, compared with stretching without a precooling intervention. Study Design: Prospective randomized single-blind test-retest design. Methods: Twenty-nine participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 static stretching protocols: a standard protocol (n, 14; age, 24.6 ± 5.4 years) or a precool protocol (n, 15; age, 25.1 ± 7.3 years). These samples allowed for 80% power for statistical significance testing. Both groups performed static hamstring stretching daily for 4 weeks. The precool group applied ice to the hamstring for 10 minutes before stretching. Both groups stretched for 4 weeks and then stopped stretching for the last 4 weeks. Hip ROM measures were obtained each week for 8 weeks. Results: For the standard group, mean hip ROM increased from 71.4° ± 18.5° to 90.6° ± 20.5° and for the precool group, 71.5° ± 22.3° to 91.8° ± 20.9°. For the standard group, mean hip ROM decreased from 90.6° ± 20.5° to 83.9° ± 20.3° and for the precool group, 91.8° ± 20.9 to 85.0° ± 19.4°. There were no differences between groups at any time in the study (P > .05). Conclusions: Precooling had no beneficial effects on ROM or on retention of ROM. Clinical Relevance: Cold application, before stretching, does not provide any benefit to a stretching program.


This article was originally published in Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, volume 36, issue 1, in 2006. The article begins on page 23 of the PDF.

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Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins