Does stretching work or is there a better option?
A posting in the barefoot running society’s web site talks about the idea of the proper squat and why we need to do this to keep the calves and legs stretched properly. You can find the article here .
The type of squat pictured in the article (see above) is not commonly seen in our society but if you look at any child, they do this naturally. We Americans seem to have lost this ability to naturally do this, which can help prevent injuries when gardening or lifting items up from a low position.
Read my response to this original posting quoted below since there are better ways of staying loose, and stretching unfortunately is not one of them.
“Actually, this is how we should bend over and do stuff. Somehow, this is lost since we do this naturally when we are little. I have trained myself to do this since it is much easier on the back and legs than bending over and will prevent lower back injuries.
Whether this stretch is necessary to stretching structures such as the calves and such brings up the discussion of stretching and if stretching has any benefit whatsoever. An article by Ian Shrier MD in 2002 that was featured in physician and sports medicine finds that stretching does little to prevent sports injuries and has a benefit of about 60 minutes if that can be considered a benefit. Perhaps, stretching cannot work because we must understand what we are stretching and why. If the myofascia is tight and inhibiting muscular function, since fascia is not stretchable in the way most of us believe (disorganized bunching of fascia will inhibit movement and affect firing patterns, causing more tightened fascia from recruitment in other parts of the body), stretching really cannot work. Stretching is still fashionable among its die hard fans however, foam rollers can actually release fascia although non specifically since most people cannot be totally objective about what they are feeling.
A number of techniques can help remold fascia, which improves firing patterns, which reduces tightness. With this in mind, perhaps we need to redirect the thought process of this conversation to one of why I am I tight or tightening rather than what do I do about the tightness. This comes back to the idea of firing patterns and the way muscles work in combination with the fascial system and your body style.
Since body style is also a determinant of how fascia forms and functions, sometimes we need to Cheat Mother Nature (incidentally, the title of my book) by doing something that creates mechanical advantage in the body so the fascia is less likely to tighten inappropriately. This is why some people need alittle help and are not ideal as barefoot or shod runners. On the other hand, sometimes, the help of an insert in the shoe (orthotic), even in a minimalist shoe can make a huge difference in running style, efficiency and reduce injuries and ankle problems such as weakness. ”
Even Yoga fans will notice that they are much tighter after two days of not doing Yoga so what gives? Perhaps, the paradigm of stretching is wrong because it never deals with why we are tight? There are many self help regimens such as foam rollers (mentioned in my response) however, why are we tight?
Firing patterns brought about by the way the myofascia surrounding the musculature in our bodies allows us to either move more or less appropriately. Only a skilled fascial therapist can understand the patterns that developed and work with the fascia to loosen and improve the way it allows us to move. With improved movement comes better efficiency and since the myofascia forms according to the forces we place upon it, a talented myofascial therapist, and preferably one who is also a chiropractor can not only improve the way movement happens but use manipulation which further frees up joints to move the way they are supposed to.
What can we take away from this discussion? If you are tight, there are mechanical reasons which you may not understand. The book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain can give you a better understanding of how all of this works and help you perhaps find the therapist who can best help. For those who wake up in the morning and do a routine to loosen themselves up, there are better options. There are better options for the person who visits the gym constantly because if they do not, they are again quite tight. The answer lies in understanding why you are tight and how you can improve your situation, rather than trying to force the body to do something like stretching that clearly has no proven long term benefit. There are better options and chiropractic with myofascial release and then adding exercises to improve the way you move makes more sense than stretching which in the long term is a potentially losing game.
Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain is available through Amazon.com and other major booksellers.
What do you think? As always, I value your opinion.