While muscle stretching has been commonly used to alleviate pain, reports of its effectiveness are conflicting. The objective of this review is to investigate the acute and chronic effects of stretching on pain, including delayed onset muscle soreness. The few studies implementing acute stretching protocols have reported small to large magnitude decreases in quadriceps and anterior knee pain as well as reductions in headache pain. Chronic stretching programs have demonstrated more consistent reductions in pain from a wide variety of joints and muscles, which has been ascribed to an increased sensory (pain) tolerance. Other mechanisms underlying acute and chronic pain reduction have been proposed to be related to gate control theory, diffuse noxious inhibitory control, myofascial meridians, and reflex-induced increases in parasympathetic nervous activity. By contrast, the acute effects of stretching on delayed onset muscle soreness are conflicting. Reports of stretch-induced reductions in delayed onset muscle soreness may be attributed to increased pain tolerance or alterations in the muscle's parallel elastic component or extracellular matrix properties providing protection against tissue damage. Further research evaluating the effect of various stretching protocols on different pain modalities is needed to clarify conflicts within the literature.

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