To stretch or not to stretch?
Most of us stretch at some point in our lives, whether it’s for athletics, to lengthen a sore or stiff muscle, or just to see if it really is impossible to touch your nose to your elbow. Over the past few years there has been a lot of information presented about stretching: is it good or bad? Should it be done before or after sports? Should it be done at all? It can be hard even for health professionals to keep up with the latest research but here is a small snapshot of what current research is showing.
RESEARCH ON STRETCHING
ACTIVE v. PASSIVE
Meroni et al. (2010): In a comparison of active (using the body’s own muscles to stretch) vs. passive (completely relaxing all muscles) the active group had significantly greater increases in flexibility after a 6 week program and maintained the results for 4 weeks, while the passive group lost most of its gains.
SHOULD IT BE PART OF A WARM UP?
Chaouchi et al. (2010): Testing 8 different warm ups from static stretching to stretching combined with a dynamic warm up this study found no adverse effects from stretching in relation to an explosive jumping test. It did however state that research is not unanimous and that before an activity stretching should be light and performed in conjunction with a dynamic sport specific warm up.
CAN STRETCHING IMPROVE HEALTH?
Lacaze et al. (2010): A 10 min daily program of stretches and exercises mid workday decreased physical pain, as well as mental and physical fatigue in a group of call centre workers compared to a group that had a standard passive 10 min rest break.
To say that we completely understand stretching and know everything about it would be misleading. There are still many different research articles coming out every year on stretching, many of them contradictory. What we do know is that when a muscle is too short it can affect its ability to contract normally, affecting performance and possibly leading to injury. We also know that stretching has been proven to be effective in relieving many injuries such as heel pain, even when compared to newer more technologically advanced methods (Rompe et al. 2010). Stretching can be an effective way to achieve normal muscle function, enhance the bodies ability to be mobile, and decrease pain. It is important to incorporate stretching into an active, healthy lifestyle to help promote maximal health and wellness. Physical Therapists prescribe stretching along with many other techniques to assist their clients in achieving optimal health For more information, please contact us at the clinic by phone or email and ask to speak to one of our physiotherapists.