Posterior shoulder tightness (PST) and glenohumeral internal-rotation deficit (GIRD) can contribute to shoulder pain suffered by athletes engaged in overhead sporting activities. Stretching is a common intervention to resolve PST and GIRD, but it has weak evidence of effectiveness to date.
This systematic review aimed to collect and synthesize effectiveness data from English- and Japanese-language randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating stretching interventions for PST and GIRD.
7 English databases and 3 Japanese databases were searched from inception until December 5, 2015. Only English- and Japanese-language RCTs were considered. Risk of bias in the included studies was assessed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale. Data were synthesized qualitatively.
Eight English-language and 2 Japanese-language papers of low to high quality were included. There was moderate evidence for positive immediate and short-term effects of cross-body stretch on PST and GIRD in asymptomatic young subjects. Moderate evidence was found to suggest that active sleeper stretch might not be more effective than no intervention to improve PST and GIRD in the short term.
Cross-body stretch can be effective to improve PST and GIRD in asymptomatic young subjects immediately or in the short term. Further study with methodological rigor is necessary to investigate the long-term effectiveness of stretching interventions on PST and GIRD in symptomatic patients.