The Effects of Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation Stretching on Post-Exercise Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in Young Adults
Until recently, the scientific community believed that post-exercise stretching could reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but recent reviews of studies on the topic have concluded that pre- or post-exercise static stretching has no effect on mitigating DOMS. However, the effect of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) post-exercise stretching on preventing DOMS has not been adequately studied. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of post-exercise PNF stretching on DOMS. Young adult participants (N=57) were randomly assigned to a PNF stretching group (n=19), a static stretching group (n=20), and to a no-stretching control group (n=18). All participants completed exercise designed to induce DOMS prior to post-exercise experimental stretching protocols. Participants rated their soreness level on a pain scale 24 and 48 hours post-exercise. A 3 × 2 mixed ANOVA showed there was an effect for time (p<.01). Post hoc testing revealed that DOMS pain significantly decreased (p<.05) from 24 to 48 hours post-exercise for the PNF and control groups, but not for the static stretching group. Other analyses revealed a significant correlation (r=.61, p<.01) between the pre- and post-exercise stretch scores and the 48 hour post-exercise pain score for the PNF group. Consistent with the results of previous research on post-exercise static stretching, these results indicate that post-exercise PNF stretching also does not prevent DOMS. However, the correlation analysis suggests it is possible the pre-stretch muscle contractions of the post-exercise PNF protocol may have placed a load on an already damaged muscle causing more DOMS for some participants.