Passive versus active stretching of hip flexor muscles in subjects with limited hip extension: a randomized clinical trial

Phys Ther. 2004 Sep;84(9):800-7.


Background and purpose: Active stretching is purported to stretch the shortened muscle and simultaneously strengthen the antagonist muscle. The purpose of this study was to determine whether active and passive stretching results in a difference between groups at improving hip extension range of motion in patients with hip flexor muscle tightness.

Subjects and methods: Thirty-three patients with low back pain and lower-extremity injuries who showed decreased range of motion, presumably due to hip flexor muscle tightness, completed the study. The subjects, who had a mean age of 23.6 years (SD = 5.3, range = 18-25), were randomly assigned to either an active home stretching group or a passive home stretching group. Hip extension range of motion was measured with the subjects in the modified Thomas test position at baseline and 3 and 6 weeks after the start of the study.

Results: Range of motion in both groups improved over time, but there were no differences between groups.

Discussion and conclusion: The results indicate that passive and active stretching are equally effective for increasing range of motion, presumably due to increased flexibility of tight hip flexor muscles. Whether the 2 methods equally improve flexibility of other muscle groups or whether active stretching improves the function of the antagonist muscles is not known. Active and passive stretching both appeared to increase the flexibility of tight hip flexor muscles in patients with musculoskeletal impairments.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Hip Joint / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Low Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Male
  • Military Medicine
  • Military Personnel
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / methods*
  • Pliability
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Time Factors