What is Assisted Stretching?

Assisted Stretching Hip Flexors Flick

Assisted stretching is the practice of a trained stretch therapist helping a client perform various static stretches using a hands on approach. During an assisted stretch session the stretch therapist may use various techniques to help their client achieve greater range of movement at specific joints.

Assisted stretching has become increasingly popular in recent years with its use in sports physical therapy, integrated into massage therapy and deep tissue massage sessions as well as the proliferation of standalone assisted stretching studios.

As new assisted stretching techniques have emerged, stretching sessions ave evolved past the traditional use of static stretching and have begun to include, PNF (see description below), perpetual movement and breath-work.

The Benefits of Assisted Stretching

The benefits of assisted stretching are far reaching. Stretching may help to improve many areas of your overall health by improving the functioning of your entire body. A trained stretch therapist will work with you on an individual basis to customise an assisted stretching treatment plan that is right for your individual needs.

Improve ROM

Assisted stretching can help improve the range of motion in associated joints and muscles, promoting easier movement and functional mobility.

Reduce pain and improve mood

This form of passive stretching may help to reduce pain, muscle aches, stiffness and joint pain, improve the feeling of tight muscles and overall energy levels. Following an assisted stretching session, clients often report that they feel taller, more open and refreshed and a feel reduction in stress levels when compared to before their session.

Increase blood flow

Stretching in general, has been shown to increases the blood flow throughout the body. During an assisted stretching session clients may be able to meet a greater range of motion than when self stretching. As a result increased blood flow may help to reduce injury risk and increase efficiency of nutrient delivery. 

Improve flexibility

Assisted stretching can also help to increase flexibility. This allows clients to access and develop greater muscle tissue. Static stretching may also help to reduce the occurrence of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and relieve feelings of muscle soreness following exertion. 

Assisted Stretching Techniques

PNF - Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation

One common stretching technique that is used in an assisted stretching session is PNF or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.

Using this form of stretch therapy the practitioner performing the assisted stretch session helps their client move into an initial stretch using passive stretching i.e. the client does not assist with the stretch at all.

The therapist then provides a resistance and asks the client to activate the muscles that were perviously being stretched. This cycle is repeated 2-3 times and is then concluded in a static stretch hold. Because of the muscles ability to stretch and relax over these cycles this final hold may be a much deeper stretch than their initial round of PNF.

Communication is key during an assisted stretching session as the therapist has the potential to take the client into much greater range of motion than if the client were to complete the same stretch using unassisted stretching techniques.

Perpetual Movement

As well as PNF, elements such as perpetual movement have been integrated into assisted stretching sessions. This is where the therapist will passively mobilize the joint either before, during or after the stretch. This is done with the aim of further lubricating the joint with the stimulation and movement of synovial fluid. Using this method the therapist is effectively trying to 'bathe' the joint in the lubricating fluid to reduce friction of the articulating bones and connective tissues.

The Difference Between Assisted Stretching and Stretch Therapy

Sometimes the terms assisted stretching and stretch therapy are used interchangeably but in general, stretch therapy refers to unassisted stretching, the scenario of an teacher instructing a client though a stretch session or class, as opposed to physically assisting them. Stretch Therapy tends to be more physically demanding for the client.

Assisted stretching as described above is a form of passive stretching that is performed on the client.

What to Expect in an Assisted Stretching Session  

This will depend greatly on where and with who an assisted stretching session takes place. Upon booking into a session a client should be asked to complete a brief questionnaire about any previous or existing injuries, as well as what their goals are for these sessions.

As part of a session the practitioner should conduct a brief visual and movement assessment, much like one would expect when visiting physical therapists or massage therapists. This assessment will determine any obvious restrictions or imbalances that a client may be working with. 

Depending on the needs and goals of the client, the therapist will perform an assisted stretching session that has ben tailored to the clients individual needs. Depending on the qualifications of the therapist this may also include elements of massage, myofascial release or other therapeutic modalities.

The Importance of Improving Range of Motion

The body's functional mobility is determined by two factors, range of motion and flexibility. Each joint in the body is supported by the articulating bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. These elements work together to support the integrity of the joint. Having an adequate range of motion enables joints to move within a specific range.

Through working to improve range of motion, there may be a subsequent improvement in overall health. If there is an adequate range of movement through the major joints of the body, clients will have the ability to move easily and comfortable through the physical demands of everyday life. An increased range of motion may also reduce the risk of injury.

If an individual is working with a decreased range of motion, as is often observed in older adults, limitations in ROM may lead to muscle imbalances, poor posture and deviation from optimal overall body alignment.

All of these factors may contribute to an increased risk of injury, muscle pain and reduction in overall functional mobility.

There is research to support the findings that correctly executed range of motion and stretch exercises can help:

  • Improve strength and flexibility

  • Reduce pain and discomfort

  • Improve circulation

  • Reduce feelings of muscle and joint stiffness

  • Reduce the risk of re-injury

  • Improve mood

Limitations of Assisted Stretching

There are some populations where is is not advisable to spend long periods in end range static stretches and that is prenatal, hyper-mobile individuals and those experiencing acute injury.


During pregnancy there is an increase in joint laxity due to normal hormonal fluctuations during this time. Great care should be taken when approaching any kind of stretching with a prenatal individual. Long hold static stretches are not advised, however shorter passive and self administered stretches may be beneficial in decreasing feelings of overall joint and muscle stiffness, great care should be taken to stay well within the individual clients own range of motion.


Hyper-mobile individuals tend to have a greater laxity to their joints and may be able to achieve quite large ranges of motion without much restriction. This is often generalised hyper-mobility, meaning that many joints are effected, however can also be localised to a specific joint.

It is important for both the client and therapist to be mindful during an assisted stretch session that the client is not pushed to the point where the stretch might create greater joint instability. Excessively hyper-mobile clients may benefit more from strengthening the hyper-mobile joints as opposed to stretching them.

Acute Injury

Regarding clients that are working with acute injuries, it is important to consult with a physical therapist or allied health professional prior to booking an assisted stretching session to ensure that you are cleared to recive that form of treatment. Its is also important to clearly communicate to your assisted stretch therapist any pain or limitations in range of motion you have be experiencing.


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