Stretching Doesn't Prevent Injuries & Why People's Heads Nod When They Fall Asleep In Meetings
.. & Why People’s Heads Nod When They Fall Asleep In Meetings!
What is the first thing everyone says when you get an injury? ‘You should have stretched.’ But does stretching before your workout make you any more less likely to get injured? The short answer is probably not.
Lets agree at the start that stretching is important. Very important. And no one wants to miss a training sessions due to injuries. Stretching is a vital part of a training program and can help you improve the range you can achieve in most exercises, improve your posture and allow joint more movement. It will definitely make you less likely to sustain an injury if a joint range is being restricted or affecting the way the rest of your body moves.
There are lots of different types of stretching: static – where you hold a position, dynamic – where you move through a range of motion, ballistic – more aggressive movement at the end of your muscle range, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation – where you add short gentle contractions into the stretching regime. All have there place. All these types of stretching aim to improve the length of the muscle or joint capsule through different methods. Some act on the muscle fibres its self and some act on your brain and reflex cycles to allow the muscle to relax.
I am part of a group doing some research into warm ups and injury prevention to try and find what aspects of warm ups before sport reduce the risk of people sustaining lower limb injuries. Force full static stretching prior to training can reduce your power output and even make you more likely to sustain a muscle injury. When muscles are stretched to quickly a reflex loop is activated causing the muscle to contract to protect it from being torn (this is the same mechanism when people have the head nods when their head is falling to the side when falling asleep on a plane or in a meeting. The head falling forward stretches the upper trapezius muscles to quickly and the reflex triggers and contracts it to protect it from tearing resulting in the head jerk).
So what should you do to help prevent injuries in a warm up?
The aim of a warm up is to prepare your muscles, joints and central nervous system for what you are about to put it through. Very rarely will a work out session consist of a sustained stretch on a muscle at the end of its range, so why do it in the warm up? Five to 10 minutes of dynamic controlled movement progressing into outer ranges followed by some whole body movements that will encourage the joint so move through a similar manner that they will in your training session will do the trick.
The research we have been doing shows that adding some single leg balance work, proprioception training and glute activation exercises after a dynamic warm up probably reduce your chance of sustaining hip, knee and ankle injuries. Some examples of these would be standing on one leg with your eyes closed, Jumping off a small step and landing on both legs while making no landing sounds and walking on a mini trampoline. Speak to your personal trainer about incorporating some simple exercises as part of your warm up and leave the stretching to after training!
Simon is one of KX’s in-house physiotherapists. With a detailed understanding of how the body works and the ability to distinguish between normal and abnormal posture, balance and movement, Simon can help restore function and prevent disability arising from trauma and injury.
• Qualified Physiotherapist
• Preventative, Diagnostic and Therapeutic Specialisms.
Simon is available at the KX Spa at the following times: