Contract-Relax

This is a technique they taught us in PT school for stretching muscles and it works, I used it all the time. I used it on orthopedic injuries. I saw regular muscles that had tears and pops and strains and stuff. I never used this on a spastic muscle and have no idea if it would be helpful. You don’t see a lot of spasticity in orthopedics. In 4 years of practice I saw zero. I also have no spasticity so I’ve never had to deal with it myself. I would guess that this technique would do nothing at first in spastic muscles but maybe it would be helpful after a few years when the spasticity has calmed down somewhat? Again I have no idea – that’s an educated guess. But here is the technique……. So when stretching out a muscle – let’s use the hamstrings as an example, everyone has tight hamstrings. Ok so, BEFORE the stretch you have the patient purposely contract the muscle then ask the patient to relax. Doing this “tricks” the muscle into relaxing fully when maybe it wouldn’t have before. So I used to do this all the time, especially on people who had trouble relaxing. For the hamstring example here’s what I would do….. When a PT stretches out hamstrings it looks weird. The PT will get between the patients’ legs – again, weird- place the foot on their shoulder and ask the patient to try to straighten out the leg as much as possible then stretch. Stretching the hamstrings means taking the foot in the direction of the head until some tension in the muscle is felt. I would say to the patient “push your foot down on my shoulder but keep your leg straight.” This contracts the hamstrings at the hip joint. Then I would say “ok relax” and go into the stretch again. It works,it was effective. Again, no idea if it will help spastic muscles.



Categories: Brain stuff, Health, Recovery, Rehab, Stroke stuff

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10 replies

  1. I thought that PMS might have been a useful tool, especially since all my therapists were women. But I learned about this after release. ‘Lets work on my PMS today’.
    Prolonged Muscle Stretch reduces spasticity

  2. Thanks for the tip, Amy. I’ll try to try it, but my problem is my spasticity is everywhere on my left side, not just in the large muscles. For instance my deltoid is rock-solid, and not in a good way. But I can start with the big muscles and go from there. I’ll let you know.

  3. I actually do this exercise in the pool w my PT. BUT my quads are more spastic than my hamstrings, so I don’t know how it would work w a spastic hamstring. Feels great, though, although it exhausts my leg completely.

  4. I have a severe problem with spastic everything on my stroke affected side. It fights hard with stretches. I akin it to Charlie horses in every muscle lasting up to two hours before relaxing. While I attempt to do the contract-relax or stretches it doesn’t always work. Mentally I know that stretching the muscle out will stop the pain, the problem is gaining the upper hand on the muscles. While I can stretch out one muscle group it causes a stronger spasticity reaction in another. It’s a no win situation.

    • So stretching one group of muscles causes another group to be more spastic? Hmm, well you’re only what a year out? Hopefully that won’t happen as much as time goes on.

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