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Do you stretch and why?

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  • Do you stretch and why?

    Stretching seems and feels intuitively right. However I often hear people crediting stretching with preventing post exercise muscle soreness, whose potential mechanism I don't see.
    I believe that the value of stretching is realized over a period of months of sustained effort. The value would be to restore a joint to its full range of motion. This would remove the compensatory movement patterns caused by the tight muscles and decrease the chance of injury. Example: tight hip flexors cause a compensatory over-extension of the low back vertebrae with each step you take. Fix the tight muscles and spare the spine.

    Research on army recruits showed that to increase the flexion of the hip joint they had to stretch 6 times a day (30 seconds per) for 6 weeks. The gains in hip range of motion were about 10%, which suggests that it's a long slow boring process. These were fit young people.

    A prominent chiropractor in Boston (who treats runners and who has published the best text books for lower limb and foot problems that can be treated with manual methods) wrote about a 2h15 marathoner whose hamstrings were incredibly tight (straight leg test about 25 degrees when the normal is 80-90!) He decided that the muscle shortening was an adaptation to running. You could compare it to the adaptive hypertrophy of muscles brought about by weight lifting. He said he would never try to "fix" the tight hamstrings.

    This raises the question of whether stretching for a hiker is good or counter-productive. What are your experiences with stretching? Do you do it? Do you think it's good for you or that it simply feels good?
    1111111111

  • #2
    Sorry in advance for the personal anecdote. I had a badly herniated disc in my lower back. It was so excruciating that I couldn't tie my shoes. (For months.)

    I initially went to standard physical "therapy" which consisted of them cringing at how little I could stretch my hamstrings and how little range of motion I had. They put me on the standard routine, using the gel massage thing on my lower back, and set me off with a therapy of stretching.

    It only got worse.

    Here is the problem: My pain and inflexibility was because of a nerve inside my spinal cord. It wasn't because of ligaments or muscles, and no amount of muscular therapy was going to address my problems.

    So I turned to a different kind of therapy, one which is indeed a long slow process and which is intended to get the body to treat itself. It essentially restores function to muscles which because of injury or disuse have stopped performing their function. (My particular therapist uses a method called Egoscue. There may be similar others.)

    It isn't stretching! Some of my therapy involves positions which may incidentally stretch, but the intent is to get my muscles doing the things that they should be doing. That's all. Some of the stretches can involve standing against a wall for 5 minutes, or (for other people, not me) laying on the floor with your knees up. My therapy (note: to treat my back) involves almost exclusively my shoulders and ankles.

    After about 3 months, I started to see a real change. It takes about 30-40 minutes per day. After 6 months, I went completely off pain killers of any sort. I sleep more comfortably. I sit in a car more comfortably. I hiked Hough, S. Dix, Grace, Macomb, Giant & RPR (together) without any ibuprofen/acetaminophen/naproxen and without being sore the next day. And yes, my flexibility in my hamstrings is much better.

    I'll never do standard stretching again. It may treat a symptom, but isn't providing a cure.
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    • #3
      You might hate me for this but it's a question I always ask myself even when I think get my own patients better.

      Give the long time line (3-6 months) how can you know that it was the treatment intervention that got you better and not simply the "tincture of time", which is nearly every therapists' and patients' best friend.

      I agree that for your condition (herniated disc) the stretching routine was a waste of time and may have risked worsening your pronblem.

      When I was in chiro school (finished in 1985) we were taught to apply stretching for everything like it was some magical sort of panacea.
      1111111111

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      • autochromatica
        autochromatica commented
        Editing a comment
        A good question. I gave the regular therapy several months as well. Things got worse. I also saw my wife do the same therapy for IT band issues, same results. Normal PT did nothing. Egoscue solved the root problem.

      • autochromatica
        autochromatica commented
        Editing a comment
        Also, past history. This is the second time it's happened (last one was 14 years ago) and the last recovery with 'normal' PT never got me to the place I currently am.

    • #4
      Funny that this question came up. Just recently I was reading an article (I’m an administrator at a medical college, so there’s always articles to be read) about how stretching should be done in one of two ways. Either regularly, or not at all. People who never stretch and people who always stretch tend to have the lowest rates of sports-related injuries by a fairly large margin (I can’t recall said margin). People who occasionally stretch but frequently engage in physical activity tend to get hurt more often. Now, there’s different ways to correlate that data. One could say that the occasional stretchers only stretch because they’re feeling the effects of the injury, and may be more injury prone as a whole. Many other “experts” suggest that the micro tears caused by irregular stretching are actually a cause of some injuries.

      Here’s my anecdotal evidence for not stretching. While in the service I stretched very regularly and stayed relatively healthy. Upon returning to civilian life I reduced my rate of exercise but even more drastically reduced my rate of stretching. After a few years I had a laundry list of issues. Stress fractures, knee problems, upper back problems, and most recently a ruptured disc. Now, one could say that this is due to aging and working out less, but I think it has more to do with my pre-exercise conditioning. About a year ago I gave up stretching before exercising entirely. Rather than stretching I began warming up my muscles at increments. So for example if I’m going to run, I walk for a couple hundred yards and then start at a slow jog and work my way up to my “happy pace” (which still isn’t very fast). If I’m still feeling tight after my run, which is rare, I’ll do some light stretching then, when my muscles are warm and limber. So far, so good. My injuries related to prolonged physical activity are healing and I haven’t had any new issues in the past year.

      So the gist of all that is no, I don't stretch.
      “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” - Ed Viesturs

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      • #5
        I think amateur stretchers do a little, assume they're 100% good to go, then overdo it. Us lazy people just start off slow and rev it up as we go.

        I always stretch AFTER a hike, it helps prevent soreness the next day for me.
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        • #6
          Most of my stretching is done with a beer mug after a hike.

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          • #7
            I've never quite understood the value of stretching. I endured endless stretching exercises all through High School while playing various sports. I was always curious why we would waste 15 minutes of a 2-hour practice stretching when that time could be better spent honing skills that would be needed in actual competition. The coaches always told us that it would help prevent injury. None of them ever could produce anything to support those statements but you did what the coach said, right? I was skeptical then and never stretched outside of the forced regimen during the organized activity. And haven't stretched since. You name the sport or activity... I don't stretch beforehand. And I don't stretch before hiking. I've always maintained that just moving warms you up. Most mountains give you a little time to get warm before the heavy exertion begins so I don't see the need to stretch.

            Within the last few years there have been some studies published that suggest that pre-exercise stretching does nothing to prevent injury. http://healthland.time.com/2013/04/0...fore-exercise/

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            • autochromatica
              autochromatica commented
              Editing a comment
              ....except the Marble Mountain T-Bar trail.

          • #8
            I don't think the Vikings stretched before battle. I doubt Neanderthals stretched prior to the hunt. Maybe that explains why they went extinct.
            1111111111

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            • #9
              Actually, the Neanderthals didn't quite go extinct, at least not in the way the Passenger Pigeon did. They were absorbed into the Homo sapiens pool. This was according to a Nova I saw on PBS. Splitting hares, but thought you'd like to know.

              People of European descent have trace amounts of Neanderthal in them.

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              • #10
                Neil, you can find quite a few people advocating against "static stretching".

                Following your lead I accepted my distaste for overdrinking/overhydration.
                Following these articles I accepted my distaste for static stretching.
                Anyway, I did not feel that it was benefitial for me.
                Last edited by Yury; 08-26-2016, 03:39 PM.

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                • #11
                  Originally posted by Neil View Post
                  I don't think the Vikings stretched before battle.
                  I have evidence to the contrary...



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                  • #12
                    Originally posted by dundee View Post
                    Actually, the Neanderthals didn't quite go extinct, at least not in the way the Passenger Pigeon did. They were absorbed into the Homo sapiens pool. This was according to a Nova I saw on PBS. Splitting hares, but thought you'd like to know.

                    People of European descent have trace amounts of Neanderthal in them.
                    I personally am 90% Neanderthal. Can't you see?
                    Actually, I've read a bit on the Neanderthals and am very interested in them. Fascinating read but a tad tedious = Svante Pääbo's book on sequencing the Neanderthal genome.
                    1111111111

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                    • #13
                      Makwa That's Everson Griffen and he's already supposedly on the injured list for this year. +1 for the non-stretchers!

                      Neil Do you pronounce it NeaderTHAL or NeanderTAL? I may or may not judge you based on how you answer.
                      “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” - Ed Viesturs

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                      • Neil
                        Neil commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I say it with a soft th as in enthralled

                      • FlyFishingandBeer
                        FlyFishingandBeer commented
                        Editing a comment
                        No judgment for you then!

                      • All Downhill From Here
                        Editing a comment
                        If I am speaking english it's "NeanderTHal". Were I speaking about it in German, it would be 'Nay-ander-TAL'.

                    • #14
                      Depends on the activity you plan on doing I think? Hiking is just walking on a fun path to me. And I think normal people walk enough that their muscles are conditioned to not being strained by hiking. If you're talking about crazy distances like 20+, then yeah maybe a few stretches afterward to release tension/get the blood flowing. But I see hiking as an exercise with a warm up/stretch already built into it by taking it easy at the beginning if needed.

                      I stretch a little before I run for the same reason. I do warm ups when I rock climb which I consider stretching. If I don't do them, then I hurt life a mofo afterward especially if I'm pushing myself. But not for hiking.

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                      • #15
                        My stretching routine, if I can call it that) consists of spending anywhere from 30-60 minutes on the floor listening to music and focusing on very specific areas that are always tight. I do fairly mild stretches and hold position for 3-5 minutes and repeat the tightest areas. I make it fairly effort-free and painless. I use 5 pound dumbbells to enhance certain positions and to let gravity do the work. In my case the areas that get tight are:
                        • hips: abductors and hams
                        • trunk: I use something a fellow chiro invented: health bridge. I also stretch the flank areas (QL muscles)
                        • shoulders: my lats are chronically tight and I stretch them a fair bit so at least they won't get any worse. I attribute tight lats to using hiking poles aggressively and to my work.
                        • hip flexors and quads: psoas and rectus femoris
                        • calves (these are done standing)
                        I do this routine 2-3x per week but I'm sure daily would be a lot better. It's part of my bed-time routine in which I avoid any electronic stimulation except music. Also, I often read a book while holding the positions.
                        Last edited by Neil; 08-27-2016, 06:48 AM.
                        1111111111

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                        • autochromatica
                          autochromatica commented
                          Editing a comment
                          Neil, this isn't too far off from Egoscue. "Let gravity do the work" is one of the essentials. That back bridge looks like something I'd expect to see, too.

                          So maybe it's semantics; I might "stretch" after all, I just call it something else and it isn't like the stretching I did growing up.
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