Tag Archives: running

Stretching to stop injury?

Does Stretching Stop Injuries?

stretching to stop injuryWe’re often told to stretch,that it will reduce pain or that stretching will benefit our sport or that it may reduce the incidence of sports injuries. A quick google search suggested other benefits. In this post I’m going to take a look at some of the suggested benefits of stretching. I’ve grouped some of them together,  as in my opinion some of the suggested benefits overlap.

  • Increases flexibility; One of  stretchings main benefits is to increase length of a  muscle or the range of motion across a joint. This appears to be true, if the stretch is performed correctly. Although in my opinion most stretches aren’t specific enough to work on trigger points, or through scar tissue.  Care also needs to be taken as some research has shown that injury can happen from being too flexible, the same is true from being too inflexible.
  • Reduces muscle imbalance;  This should be taken in tandem with increasing flexibility and as part of an overall balancing and flexibility program.
  • Improves circulation; This is an interesting one.  I normally like to think of, and describe muscles as a sponge. Imagine taking a sponge and squeezing it in to a ball and lowering it into a bucket of water. Now take it out. No water runs out, because no water has soaked in. Now exchange the squeezed sponge for a tight muscle. Blood would have greater trouble flowing in, and through the muscle possibly resulting in increased blood pressure. When you compare that to a non squeezed sponge and how easily the water flows in and out it would seem to make sense to stretch a muscle to aid blood flow. This may also help increase recovery rates.
  • Decreases anxiety and stress, relaxes muscles, can give you an overall feeling of well-being; This I believe is as part of a relaxation or meditation routine. There may be some endorphin release associated with stretching, or it could be the time-out taken from your life while stretching helps you relax and releases tension.
  • Reduces risk of injury; There is actually very little evidence for this. particularly for stretching prior to exercise. Although Stretching can help improve flexibility, and better flexibility may improve your performance in physical activities or decrease your risk of injuries by helping your joints move through their full range of motion. For instance, imagine the muscles in your calf attaching to your Achilles tendon are tight and lack flexibility. If you do a lot of hill walking, your foot may not move through its full range of motion. Over time, this can increase your risk of tendonitis or tendonopathy in your Achilles tendon. Stretching the muscles that attach to your achilles tendon,  may improve the range of motion in your ankle. This, in turn, may decrease the risk of microtrauma to your tendon that can lead to overload and injury.

So here we have 5 benefits of stretching. Will they help you reduce injury, make you faster or feel better? Try it and find out. I’d be interested to hear your experiences so leave a comment. Next post will be on the muscles you can’t stretch.



Getting Faster as you get older (pt2) The Even Better News

Back to Part 1

What an osteopath would do to make you faster

In part one I wrote about muscle cell efficiency and  decreases in muscle economy. Now I’m going to write about how me as an osteopath can help improve muscle economy through efficient movement by increasing flexibility.

An osteopathic principle believes that your muscles are a mirror of your life. What does this mean to you and why should it make you faster? Every thing you have done is “trapped” within your muscles. Every strain, pull and  injury. All the times you overused, abused, mis-used your body. The hours you’ve spent sitting at a desk, on a sofa or stuck in a car in traffic. It’s all held in the muscles, making them stiffer, tighter and  feeling older. These are inefficient muscles. It takes a greater effort to move them.

To move a joint the muscle on one side has to contract to pull it, at the same time the muscle on the other side has to relax to allow the movement. If the relaxing muscle is tight and inflexible it will require greater effort from the contracting muscle to allow the movement. Your economy of movement will be decreased requiring greater effort or power and decreases to your stamina.

Stretching can play a part in decreasing the inflexibility, but only a part if we consider muscle tightness in terms of structural and functional changes.

A muscle spasm could be thought of as a functional change. The muscle contracts to protect the area from further injury or insult. It’s normally short-lived and the muscle returns to its normal length.

A structural change is when the muscles form changes more permanently. There are studies showing the cellular structural changes associated with tennis elbow. It is  also thought that shin splints can in part be caused by trauma and scar tissue formation in the shin muscles. Trigger points are another example of what I would call structural changes to muscles. All these examples leave the muscle either shortened or with shortened areas that don’t respond well to stretching. I also believe that training without stretching can lead to structurally shortened muscle.

This is where an osteopath can help. Working through your muscles may help return your muscles to more norm state, breaking down any restrictions to movement helping you move more efficiently.

One of my patients demonstrated that possible effects of this. He came in with left-sided low back, buttock, groin and leg pain. I treated the problems on that side and while training on a turbo trainer he noted

“Did 15mins singe leg spins this morning. Left side has more power and comfort with 10% more rpm.”

While I know this isn’t conclusive it does give me a way to start to measure improvements.

An osteopath won’t just look at your legs. They may also  look at your back and pelvis to get that working properly. This would allow it to integrate with your improved leg movements making your whole running gait more efficient.

Why stop there? An osteopath can also look at your ribs and diaphragm. Loosening your diaphragm, which is your main breathing muscle, could give you a fuller breath. Working through the muscles between the ribs and the rib attachments may also allow your chest to expand more again allowing more air in.

So the other suggestion in the experiment’s conclusion, is to do some weights to improve your breathing. I’d like to suggest hold off on the weights. Get what’s there working properly and watch those efficiency gains. Then decide if you really need to do the weights. After all you’re going to be carrying the weight gain on inefficient legs.

The list is almost endless of what an osteopath could improve. The next post is going to be on what to expect when you visit an osteopath and a likely time frame for treatment.  Part 3 out now

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enjoying running as you get older

Getting Faster as you get older? The good news

Research shows that you can run faster.

enjoying running as you get olderDoes age automatically mean that there’s a decline in our athletic endeavors?  A commonly held belief is the older we get the poorer our sporting performance gets, but this isn’t necessarily true and I believe that osteopathy can  help all runners and other athletes whatever their age maintain their speed and possibly reduce the impact of injury.

A recent post in the NY Times reported on some good news for older runners. The results from the experiment on aging factors and running economy suggest that ‘age-related declines in running performance are associated with declines in maximal and submaximal cardiorespiratory variables and declines in strength and power, not because of declines in running economy.’

What may be confusing to a lay person is that they’re confusing economy and efficiency and muscle with muscle cells.

What they meant by this is your muscles cells  don’t lose efficiency. ie older muscles cells use oxygen as well as younger muscles.

In fact muscles that have been trained for endurance events use oxygen more efficiently. The Genetics and Molecular Biology of Muscle Adaptation (Advances in Sport and Exercise Science) highlights research that shows that mitochondria, the powerhouse of a cell, do their job better the more the muscle is used, or to put it another way, the older the muscles and the person using the muscle is, the greater the potential for speed and endurance.

So according to the experiment, the decline doesn’t come from decreases in the efficiency of the muscle cells, it comes from the decline of your heart and lungs and the decline in strength and power of your muscles. Or to put it my way the decline comes from decreases in the economy of effort used during movement.

The experiment noted that older runners had decreased upper body strength compared to younger runners and that while they both had similar leg power, the older runners had decreased leg flexibility.

While using your arms does help pump your lungs, there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between upper body muscle mass or power and respiratory efficiency. The movement of the rib cage and the diaphragm (the main respiratory muscle) were not assessed in this study, but age can and does tighten these leading to decreased flexibility there as well.

Correcting these decreases in flexibility is where an osteopath could play a crucial role in maintaining your athletic performance. How is what I’m going to talk about in Part 2 >