The Effects of Thermal and Cold Therapies on the Flexibility of Hamstring Muscle: A Comparative Study
Background/Objectives: There have been several reports on the severity of hamstring tightness and its consequences both in sports - related injuries as well as in pathological conditions particularly low back pain. The relative effects of the application of heating and cooling modalities on the muscles prior to the performance of flexibility exercises have not been extensively studied. This study was therefore designed to determine and compare the effects of thermal (heat) and cold (ice) therapies on the flexibility of the hamstring muscle group (HMG). Methodology: Forty-three (43) apparently healthy individuals who presented with hamstring muscle tightness participated in this study. They were randomly assigned into three groups: Heat, cold and control groups. Active knee extension lag (hamstring muscle tightness) was measured for all the participants before and after intervention using active knee extension test (AKET). All the participants were placed on static stretch exercises for 5 - consecutive days and in addition, the participants in the heat and cold groups received heat and cold therapies respectively on the HMG. Results: The results showed that there was no significant difference in the flexibility of the HMG between the participants in the cold and control groups (p > 0.05), however there was a significant difference in the flexibility of the HMG between the participants in the heat and cold groups (Right leg - t = 5.39, p = 0.02; Left leg - t = 5.41, p = 0.04)). Conclusion: It was concluded that hamstring muscle flexibility may be better enhanced by the application of superficial heat to the hamstring muscle group prior to the performance of flexibility (stretching) exercises.
Keywords: Hamstring Tightness, Thermal Therapy, Cold Therapy, Stretching Exercises.
Nigerian Journal of Health and Biomedical Sciences Vol. 6 (2) 2007: pp. 39-44