The effectiveness of passive stretching in children with cerebral palsy

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2006 Oct;48(10):855-62. doi: 10.1017/S0012162206001836.


Passive stretching is widely used for individuals with spasticity in a belief that tightness or contracture of soft tissues can be corrected and lengthened. Evidence for the efficacy of passive stretching on individuals with spasticity is limited. The aim of this review was to evaluate the evidence on the effectiveness of passive stretching in children with spastic cerebral palsy. Seven studies were selected according to the selection criteria and scored against the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale. Effect size and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for comparison. There was limited evidence that manual stretching can increase range of movements, reduce spasticity, or improve walking efficiency in children with spasticity. It appeared that sustained stretching of longer duration was preferable to improve range of movements and to reduce spasticity of muscles around the targeted joints. Methods of passive stretching were varied. Further research is required given the present lack of knowledge about treatment outcomes and the wide use of this treatment modality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Palsy / complications
  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology
  • Cerebral Palsy / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Muscle Spasticity / etiology
  • Muscle Spasticity / rehabilitation*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology