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Does "stretching" reduce the muscle soreness related to exercise?

Sara Shupe, MSPT, Dip. MDT, is a physical therapy specialist and founder of J.O.Y. Physical Therapy. She recently shared her research related to low back pain at the North American Spine Society summer meeting in San Diego.

If you have exercised for any amount of time at a level that is beneficial to your musculoskeletal, endocrine, circulatory and metabolic systems, you would have experienced an unpleasant phenomenon the medical world has given yet another silly acronym to- D.O.M.S. That is, Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. Otherwise known as the-most-common-reason-someone-doesn't-return-to-exercise.

We've all been there. Motivated. Gung-Ho. "I'm gonna lose that weight if it kills me!" Just hours later, when you wake up with death by DOMS, you hobble up to your car to drive to the nearest outlet for bigger pants.

Is it worth the pain?

The literature has suggested that there may be a remedy to this DOMS problem - stretching! One of the most quoted random-controlled, systemic review trials on stretching was done over a decade ago by Herberts & Gabriel (no, not the sandwich shop!). Unfortunately, the researchers did not find much benefit in the pain levels of DOMS as a result.
However, as with much research, perhaps the problem does not lie in the lack of efficacy of stretching itself, but rather the way the intervention (in this case "stretching") is defined and executed.

What is "stretching" anyways?

Our dear friend Google defines stretching as "to straighten or extend one's body or a part of one's body to its full length." In order to properly test the effects of stretching on DOMS, one would need to take a mucle group to its full length and sustain the position for several minutes. I tell my patients, until a "strain pain" is initially felt, and then decreases the longer you are in the position, preferably at least 2 minutes or longer per muscle group. Test one muscle group at a time and let me know what you find out!

In most otherwise healthy adults, I would expect it to make exercise, and the DOMS that goes with that, easier! Now that is Good News!

Call 651-800-MYPT or go to www.joy-pt.com today to get your appointment to set up your stretching program or find a MDT Provider in your area at www.mckenzieinstituteusa.org/findaprovider

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