Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2021) 20, 258 - 267   DOI:

Review article
Peripheral Nerve Responses to Muscle Stretching: A Systematic Review
Ewan Thomas1, , Marianna Bellafiore1, Luca Petrigna1, Antonio Paoli2, Antonio Palma1, Antonino Bianco2
Author Information
1 Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Unit, Department of Psychology, Educational Science and Human Movement, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy
2 Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Padova, Padova, Italy

Ewan Thomas
✉ PhD Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Unit University of Palermo Via Giovanni Pascoli 6-90144, Palermo, Italy
Publish Date
Received: 10-02-2021
Accepted: 23-02-2021
Published (online): 08-03-2021
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Stretching is commonly used to increase range of motion and flexibility. Therefore, investigations are usually oriented towards the muscle-tendon unit. Limited evidence exists regarding potential effects of stretching on peripheral nerves which lie within muscles. The objective of this investigation will be to elucidate the responses of peripheral nerves to stretching. A literature search was performed using the following databases: Scopus, NLM Pubmed and ScienceDirect. Studies regarding the effects of stretching protocols on responses of peripheral nerves were retrieved for investigation. The NHLBI tool was used for quality assessment. Outcomes included nerve stiffness, nerve displacement, pain pressure thresholds and resistive torque. A total of 10 studies were considered eligible and were included in this investigation. The quality assessment of the studies revealed an overall “fair to good” methodological quality across the included studies. All studies except for one involved healthy participants. High heterogeneity of stretching protocols was retrieved. As a consequence of stretching, nerve stiffness (-15.6%) and pain pressure thresholds (-1.9kg) increased. Nerve displacements on each movement plane for all the considered nerves and nerve deformation were also frequently observed. Peripheral nerve responses to muscle stretching include decreased nerve stiffness and increased pain pressure thresholds. Nerve displacement also frequently occurs. It is still unclear if reduced nerve displacement may lead to clinical outcomes. There is a lack of longitudinal studies regarding peripheral nerve adaptations to stretching.

Key words: Stretching, nerve, pain, stiffness, displacement

           Key Points
  • Stretching decreases nerve stiffness.
  • Peripheral nerves move and deform during stretching.
  • Pain pressure thresholds increase following stretching.
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