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Deep stripping massage strokes combined with eccentric resistance resulted the improvement of hamstring flexibility among a group of people with tight hamstrings, according to recent research.

The study, “Effect of deep

stripping massage alone or with eccentric resistance on hamstring length and strength,” involved 64 people with tight hamstrings on one or both sides and no history of knee, thigh, hip or lower back problems during the previous year.

For the study, tight hamstrings were defined by passive terminal knee extension equal to or less than 75 degrees. Both hamstring flexibility and strength were evaluated before and after the intervention session, and these were the two primary outcomes in this study.

For the intervention, deep stripping massage strokes were combined with eccentric resistance and applied to the tighter hamstring of each subject. If both hamstrings were equally tight, then the deep stripping massage strokes and eccentric resistance were applied to the subject’s dominant leg.

During the intervention, subjects were prone on a massage table with a green resistance band attached to their ankle. The other end of the band was secured beneath the massage table with no slack. This provided eccentric resistance through the full range of motion.

“The participant was then passively moved into knee flexion beyond 90 degrees, so that they experienced zero concentric restriction,” state the study’s authors. “After releasing the ankle, the participant was instructed to engage their hamstring muscles countering the resistance of the resistance band so that it took a full 10-second count for the leg to be fully extended.”

As each subject’s leg was lowered under resistance, a massage therapist applied deep longitudinal stripping massage strokes up the hamstring muscles from the insertion points to the ischial tuberosity. The pressure used by the massage therapists was at a seven out of 10 on a verbal pressure scale.

The strokes were applied first to the lateral aspect of the hamstrings, then the center and medial aspect, for a total of fifteen deep stripping massage strokes. Immediately following the deep stripping massage combined with eccentric resistance, deep stripping massage strokes alone were applied to each subject’s other hamstring. This time, the participant remained passive, and no eccentric contractions were performed.

Results of the research revealed that hamstring flexibility improved by 10.7 percent when the deep stripping massage strokes were applied in combination with the eccentric resistance. When the massage strokes were applied alone, the improvement in hamstring  flexibility was 6.3 percent. When comparing the two interventions, the deep stripping massage strokes combined with eccentric resistance produced significantly greater results. No significant changes in hamstring strength resulted from either intervention.

Authors: Jeffrey Forman, Lisbeth Geersten and Michael Rogers.

Sources: De Anza College Massage Therapy Program, Cupertino, California, and Wichita State University, Department of Human Performance Studies, Wichita, Kansas. Originally published in January 2014 in the Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 18(1), 139-144.

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