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The Importance of Static Stretching to Prevent Sports Injury

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Static stretching is an exercise that involves muscle elongation with low force and for a long period. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Mohammed Wajid

Published At November 1, 2023
Reviewed AtApril 17, 2024

Introduction:

Mobility of human bodies depends on how much the range of motion of joints (ROM) is available in synovial joints. The joints may be stiff, and the muscles facilitating a particular motion may be stretched to limits. The joints are limited in the range of motion by the articular geometry, congruency of the articulating surfaces, and the capsuloligamentous structures. They support the joint. The musculature is viscoelastic in its structure and gives out “passive tension.” When in an inactive state, the degree of passive tissue stretching depends on the connective tissue properties of the muscle itself and the connecting fascia. Active tension is when the muscle dynamically contracts.

Active tension results from the neuro-reflexive properties of muscle, mostly due to the presence of activated peripheral motor neurons and muscle spindles (A and G motor neurons). Muscle tightness may be one of the many causes that may lead to reduced joint range of motion. A prolonged period of active or passive posture poses the risk of straining the muscles, producing muscle tightness. Some muscles could be shortened because of a passive adaptation of the position or scarring, or some muscles could be shorter actively because of spasm or contraction. This may be for some reason, but fixed joints impair movement and may eventually result in a muscular imbalance.

What Is Called Stretching?

Stretching typically aims to lengthen a musculotendinous unit effectively extending the space between a muscle's origin and insertion. When muscles are stretched, tension is typically inversely correlated with length. Lower tension is associated with longer muscles, while higher tension is associated with shorter muscles. Stretching muscles inevitably exerts tension on other structures, such as the joint capsule and fascia, which are composed of different tissues than muscle and have different biomechanical properties. Stretches that are dynamic, static, and pre contraction stretches are the three types of stretching techniques. Static stretching, which is the oldest and most popular kind, involves holding a particular position while keeping the muscles tense to the point of experiencing a stretching sensation by repeating the process. Both the subject and a partner may engage in this activity passively.

What Is Static Stretching and Its Mechanism?

Static stretching is distinguished by long, sustained holds and it is achieved by passively stretching a muscle as far as it will allow and then holding it still for a while. The length of time holding in the position makes a big difference between static and dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves repeatedly entering and exiting the stretch position with brief pauses, whereas static stretching involves holding the stretch for at least ten seconds (most commonly for 30 seconds). Static stretching, as opposed to dynamic stretching, significantly increased the flexibility of the hamstrings. After stretching for 15 minutes, the effects subsided, but flexibility continued to stay significantly higher than at baseline. In those with decreased flexibility in post-injury, warm-up and static stretching had a greater short-term effect on hamstring flexibility, but the disparity was not statistically significant.

Why Is Static Stretching Important?

Static stretches have numerous benefits, including muscle toning, body shaping, and mind-calming effects. Prior to exercising, it is critical to understand the advantages and risks of static stretching. Static stretching only carries the risk of overdoing it at first, which could result in injury. Starting slowly and gaining momentum each day is preferable. Static stretching lowers stress levels and improves body flexibility. It eases tension and improves blood circulation in the body. The muscle is lengthened, and the body's range of motion is enhanced. The general consensus is that stretching improves performance by reducing body stiffness.

Acute effects of static stretching on muscle and power are:

  • Reduces muscle and tendon viscoelastic behavior temporarily, with no long-term effects.

  • Reduces motor neuron excitability by activating the Renshaw recurrent loop and having an inhibitory effect on the Golgi tendon organ (recurrent inhibition).

  • Reduces the motor unit's activity.

  • Reduces the stretch reflex's activity by reducing the activity of muscle spindles.

  • Reductions in the sensitivity of nociceptors and joint receptors, which are essential defense mechanisms for protecting moving structures.

  • Helps joint receptors of types III and IV by sending inhibitory signals to the pool of motoneuron cells.

All of these abrupt muscle changes result in decreased force production, decreased performance, and an increased risk of injury.

What Are the Various Flexibility Techniques?

The neuromuscular system reacts differently to different kinds of stretching. Understanding the various flexibility techniques is essential for implementing the right flexibility training program for each person based on assessments, demands, and goals. Corrective, active, and dynamic flexibility are the three categories of flexibility.

Corrective Flexibility:

Corrective flexibility uses SMR (self-myofascial release) followed by static stretching.

Acute factors for corrective flexibility are,

1. SMR - Use a foam roller or other similar tool to gently press on sore spots or knots and hold for 30 seconds (minimum).

2. Static stretch - Do one to three sets and hold for 30 seconds at the initial point of tension.

Active Flexibility:

After movement compensations are addressed, pre-activity warm-up exercises are designed to increase soft tissue extensibility by using reciprocal inhibition to move a limb through its maximum motion range during the stretching of functional antagonists.

Quick-changing factors for active flexibility:

1. SMR (self-myofascial release).

2. Isolated active stretches.

  • Hold for one to two seconds after the initial tension point.

  • Do it five to ten times.

  • Do one to two sets.

Functional Flexibility:

The purpose of the pre-activity warm-up in the power phase of training is to enhance multiplanar soft tissue extensibility and to give optimal neuromuscular control during the full range of motion and functional movements which involve the muscles of the body to regulate the speed, direction, and intensity of the stretch. Dynamic stretching follows SMR to achieve functional flexibility.

For functional stretching, acute variables include:

1. SMR.

2. Dynamic stretches.

  • Do one to two sets.

  • Do fifteen to twenty repetitions.

  • Do three to ten exercises.

Conclusion:

To engage in preferred sport or activity, a person needs a certain amount of flexibility. Do not stretch too far. Do not hold static stretches for longer than 60 seconds as part of the warm-up, and follow the static stretches with a set of dynamic or sport-specific movements to make sure the muscles are awake. The majority of sports injuries do not tolerate static stretching in the initial stages of recovery, so talk to the physiotherapist to find out what exercises are right.

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Mohammed Wajid
Mohammed Wajid

Physiotherapy

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