Health-care professionals often prescribe exercises such as stretching to reduce pain. It has long been accepted that stretching provides pain relief by increasing range of motion and decreasing muscle tone, which give the impression that there is less pain.
This perceived pain relief is rarely found to be directly associated with pain reduction. It’s possible that stretching actually impacts pain perception by activating the areas in our central nervous system that modulate pain.
A new study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain examined the effects of stretching on pain sensitivity by asking 22 healthy adults who did not suffer from back pain to perform stretches of the lumbar region and forearm muscles.
Before and after each exercise, researchers measured the pain sensitivity threshold for a muscle of the lower back (erectors of the lumbar spine) and a muscle of the forearm (wrist flexors) using an algometer.
Researchers observed that both stretches produced hypoalgesia, an increase in the pain sensitivity threshold. This means that after the participants performed the stretches, the experimenter had to apply greater pressure to produce pain.
For further details on the study process and the conclusions drawn, read the abstract at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32881712.