A Little Physiology
A free nerve ending brings information from the body's periphery along the spinal column to the brain. Free nerve endings can detect temperature, mechanical stimuli such as touch, pressure, stretch and can also sense pain. A nociceptor is one such free nerve ending essentially used by our tissue to warn us of a potentially damaging stimulus that imposes the risk of injury. Nociceptors have a certain pain threshold; that is, a minimum level of stimuli is required before they trigger a signal.
In this May's Journal of Clinical Biomechanics, researchers found that increased range of motion when static stretching is not due to changes in muscle and tendon structures. After a six-week static stretching training program researchers examined the musle-tendon unit junction which allowed them to determine length changes in the muscle as well as the tendon. They calculated muscle stiffnes, tendon stiffness, looked at maximum voluntary contraction, pennation angle, fascicle length, muscle-tendon junction displacement, and passive resistive torque.
What they determined was that increased range of motion due to static stretching could not be explained by the structural changes in the muscle-tendon unit. This means that static stretching does little to the muscle or tendon. The researchers concluded that an increase in flexibility is largely due to increased stretch tolerance possibly due to adaptations of nociceptive nerve endings.
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