Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is Stretching Just Wasting Your Time?

You will not find a more heated debate then stretching.  Friends, family, athletes, patients other therapist, they may swear by stretching.  Some will swear against it.  I personally find myself assigning less and less stretching for flexibility.  I'm starting to believe most stretching is just increasing sensory input to the muscle.

List your reasons for stretching.  If warming up, injury prevention, be less sore (delayed onset muscle soreness  DOMS), or increase in flexibility were on your list, you may be wasting your time.  All of these reasons have been firmly debunked with science and experiments.

That doesn't mean stretching doesn't have a place or have value.  It looks like stretching can make you feel better.  That is a great reason.  Stretching may decrease pain by increasing sensory input to the muscle.  The article that prompted this blog post is linked at the end. It is a great read that walks you through your thoughts, opinions and your personal dogma on stretching.  The article is called,  "Quite a Stretch."

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jason first I just want to say that I have been following your blog for about a year and have gotten some great tips. Regarding your post on streching. I suffer from lower back pain from years of basketball and a pulled muscle in my back when a slipped on a rock while whitewater rafting a couple years ago. My back stiffens up after only sitting down for 45minutes. Usually the only thing that helps me relieve the intense pain is streching. I have lately noticed though that walking if only for five minutes takes away a lot of the pain. So what do you think regarding lower back pain. Does streching really make that big of a difference?

Jason Ross said...

I would definitely need a little more information in terms of where you feel pain. The type and what exact stretches you are doing.

From the comment, I know that inactivity (sitting) bring it on over time. Mobility (walking) brings relief. So it is safe to say that it is muscular/fascial. Not joint. Also while the stretching relieves pain, it hasn't improve outcome. Still get it at 45 min with sitting. So I would say the stretching isn't helping long term, but is worthwhile while you figure out the real cause.

Jason Ross said...

Feel free to go into more details if you want and lets see if we can figure this out!

Anonymous said...

Jason,
I have played basketball since I was about 10. I was always a little guy and several times I got knocked midair falling on my tailbone. One time also my siblings played a cruel joke on me of moving my chair and when I wen to sit down fell on my tail bone.That is where periodic pain right above my tailbone started. The majority of the lower back pain began about four years ago white water rafting.
The pain is mostly on the two vertical strands of muscle on each side of the spine. Especially towards the lower back. These two muscles I have noticed almost always tighten up in short periods of time. I noticed that when a went to a massage therapist when they put lots of pressure on the area it stopped the tightness. It tightens back up so quickly that I have been applying pressure myself with my hands or some type of object and notice a release in tightness for several hours.
I have been doing the psoas strech you put up awhile ago for sometime where you have one knee on the ground and the other at a 45 degree angle and you strech your hips forward. I do the seated one leg hamstring streches a couple of times daily. The reclined hamstring strech and some calve streches.
The one strech I use to do a couple of months ago that relieved me of the most pain was where I would put one leg on a table with the knee folded at a 90 degree angle with the outside of the foot facing the inner thigh. I would then use my other leg to help slowly apply more pressure. I would then switch legs. However while I was doing that one day I started to feel excruciating pain almost to the degree when I first had my whitewater accident. The pain was a very dull pain that literally zaps all my energy and I must take a muscle relaxer or heavy pain medicine to stop it. This pain usually lasts for a couple of days. I finally started to notice when I did that strech it is where the highest level of pain was generated.
I also noticed pain after I would play pick up basketball. I quit backetball about six months ago though until I can get some of this back pain resolved.
A month and a half ago I started doing some leg squats with no weight for two sets of 20 reps twice a week and also doing some core exercises to try to strenghten my core.Let me know if this is enough information.

Sifter said...

I would suggest that every PT, chiro and trainer visit a nursing home and assisted living home for one solid week as part of their curriculum and then evaluate what role both stretching (flexibility) and movement (mobility) play in the quality of life. I know 'science' says stretching is overrated and perhaps injurious, but like squatting, it's how you do it, not 'it' by itself.

Jason Ross said...

Anonymous,
Try rolling with a tennis ball on the Hip External rotators and using a foam roller to roll out both lats. Shoot for 5 min for the hips and 5 for the lats. See if this improves sitting time.

Jason Ross said...

Sifter,
Actually I have visited many retirement homes. Some for treatment, some just to visit. I take care of enough 70+ year old people to confidently say, it's not a stretching issue to improve the quality of their life. It's a strength issue. At some point, they quit moving in ROM that they used to. They quit making the muscles do work.

I have several that still compete in Tri's. They are complete studs. Is that normal? No, but, I think it could and should be.
My Grandma moved from a home that had "to many stairs." In her own words. She is 91. All of sudden this year, her knees started to bother her. No longer has to use those quadriceps as much.
If a muscle is strong, protective tension won't be as much in a compensation pattern. Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jason
I really have seen some improvement using the tennis ball.
God Bless