Introduction This study aimed to compare the effectiveness of stretching with ice and stretching with heat and their long term effect on the hamstring muscle flexibility among college students.
Methods This was a quasi-experimental study where students who were determined to have tightness of the hamstring muscle were randomized to receive hot or cold packs thrice weekly for four weeks prior to stretching the muscle. The range of motion of knee extension with 90º hip flexion (active knee extension) was measured at baseline, week 1, week 2 and at the end of the treatment period. The post-treatment range of motion was compared with the baseline within and between the two study groups.
Results Both modalities resulted in an increase in the range of motion from the initial to the week 4 determination. The final range of motion assessment was similar for the cold and hot groups. The difference between the final and initial assessment was larger in the cold group compared with the heat group (13.5º vs 9.5º) but when the mean difference was compared between the two groups, an unpaired t-test showed that the difference was significant.
Conclusion Cold therapy prior to stretching appears to be a more effective option than heat in addressing hamstring muscle extensibility problems.