Connect 13 Day 3 – Part One: It's Quite a Stretch !

edf5a162df"It's what we think we know that keeps us from learning" – Claude Bernard. 9:50 AM: The morning of the last day and Peter Magnusson from the Institute of Sports Medicine, Copenhagen looks at the effect of stretching on the muscle-tendon unit with a specific focus on benefits of stretching to reduce muscle stiffness/soreness, improve performance and decrease injury. To briefly summarize, stretching doesn't do any of those things. The answer is no. The data just isn't there.

While stretching before exercise does not seem to confer a reduction in the risk of injury this general observation does need more rigorous testing. There were two systematic reviews that also pretty conclusively showed that stretching does not produce any clinically important reductions in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

To be fair stretching will increase the range of motion of a joint but it has no real lasting effect on the mechanical properties of the muscle-tendon unit.

Wow. Remind me not to stretch before or after I go running tomorrow (and in deference to Benno, see yesterday, I'm going to run with one shoe on and one foot bare to test the effect of both on my legs simultaneously and discover my preference).

Tom Findley tells me that while he learned that stretching does not have a lasting effect on the mechanical properties of muscles and tendons he theorizes that where stretching has the most impact is on the lateral fibers in the epi, peri, and endomysium.

I was struck by how these experimental models are refined to isolate and stretch a specific muscle in one very specific way. While I understand the thinking and necessity behind this, I do not think anything in the body works in isolation so I wonder how that effects the study outcomes.

10:15AM: Jürgen Freiwald continues with a somewhat more historic overview of stretching, reminding us that stretching is not a isolated activity but a whole body event and includes some nice shout outs to Tittel's myofascial slings and and Myers' Anatomy Trains models.

11:00AM: The morning concludes with Susan Corey from the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine in San Francisco shows her study of static stretching beyond the usual range of motion in micro trauma/injury on mice. Turns out it has an anti-fibrotic effect.

She also cited a study by Karen Sherman showing positive outcomes on stretching for low back pain, this time on people. In this study was they had one group do yoga and another group do physical therapy. The PT group did the same things as the yoga group but isolated it down to just the stretching component (no focus on breathing, no savasana). Both groups did far better than the control group (who did self care) but the yoga group did just a little but better than the PT group. Yay yoga!

The consensus here is that we should stretch, but maybe not for us for the reasons we think.

Again, we need to be asking the right questions.