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The Effect Of Duration Of Stretching Of The Hamstring Muscle Group For Increasing Range Of Motion In People Aged 65 Years Or Older

J Brent Feland, J William Myrer, Shane S Schulthies, Gill W Fellingham, Gary W Measom
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Abstract Background and Purpose. Stretching protocols for elderly people (≥65 years of age) have not been studied to determine the effectiveness of increasing range of motion (ROM). The purpose of this study was to determine which of 3 durations of stretches would produce and maintain the greatest gains in knee extension ROM with the femur held at 90 degrees of hip flexion in a group of elderly individuals. Subjects. Sixty-two subjects (mean age=84.7 years, SD=5.6, range= 65–97) with tight hamstring muscles (defined as the inability to extend the knee to less than 20° of knee flexion) participated. Subjects were recruited from a retirement housing complex and were independent in activities of daily living. Methods. Subjects were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups and completed a physical activity questionnaire. The subjects in group 1 (n=13, mean age=85.1 years, SD=6.4, range=70–97), a control group, performed no stretching. The randomly selected right or left limb of subjects in group 2 (n=17, mean age=85.5 years, SD=4.5, range=80–93), group 3 (n=15, mean age=85.2 years, SD=6.5, range=65–92), and group 4 (n=17, mean age=83.2 years, SD=4.6, range=68–90) was stretched 5 times per week for 6 weeks for 15, 30, and 60 seconds, respectively. Range of motion was measured once a week for 10 weeks to determine the treatment and residual effects. Data were analyzed using a growth curve model. Results. A 60-second stretch produced a greater rate of gains in ROM (60-second stretch=2.4° per week, 30-second stretch=1.3° per week, 15-second stretch=0.6° per week), which persisted longer than the gains in any other group (group 4 still had 5.4° more ROM 4 weeks after treatment than at pretest as compared with 0.7° and 0.8° for groups 2 and 3, respectively). Discussion and Conclusion. Longer hold times during stretching of the hamstring muscles resulted in a greater rate of gains in ROM and a more sustained increase in ROM in elderly subjects. These results may differ from those of studies performed with younger populations because of age-related physiologic changes.