resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Building From the Bottom Up
I caught up with my dear friend Honora Wolfe, in her Colorado painting studio where, if she is not praying in Bhutan or doing charitable work in a Nepali free clinic, she spends most of her time now.
Are You a Bad Chiropractic Patient?
My father was a great DC. In fact, as you might expect, he was the doctor of chiropractic I measured all other doctors against. Sadly, he died at age 61 when I was in my early 30s.
Coding for the Subluxation: ICD-9 vs. ICD-10
When I attended chiropractic school, I was taught that chiropractors approach health care differently than the traditional medical establishment.
A Guide for Talking to Doctors about Acupuncture and Brain Chemistry
Before I begin any discussion of how to talk about the effects of acupuncture on brain chemistry, nervous and endocrine function, it is essential to understand just what physicians most need help with.
Knee Pain From the Kinetic Chain
As practitioners of manual medicine, chiropractors often treat patients suffering from knee pain.
Why You Should Include the Single-Leg Stance Test in Every Patient Assessment
The single-leg stance (SLS) test, also known as the single-limb stance test, unipedal stance test or one-legged stance / balance test, is often used in the geriatric population to assess static postural and balance control.
A History Worth Telling
The popularity and the use of acupuncture for the treatment of animals in the United States is at its peak.
Vaccines and Chiropractic: Evidence-Based Medicine or Medical Dogma?
Right or wrong, the chiropractic profession has historically been against vaccinations. However, a growing trend within the profession is seeking to reverse this position.
Fibromyalgia: Put the Pain in Its Place
While some fibromyalgia patients respond favorably to regular chiropractic care, others experience minimal relief. Unfortunately, many of these patients must rely on pharmacological management to relieve their constant pain.
Remembering Clarence Gonstead and 50 Years of the Gonstead Clinic
Dr. Clarence Selmer Gonstead (1898-1978) took chiropractic practice from back-alley bone setting to an understandable biomechanical science. His life was dedicated to clinical competency.
Medical Qigong for the Heart: Part III
Part 1 and Part II of this series focused on the physical aspect of the Heart and mental emotional aspects of the Heart respectively. Now, I would like to focus on the spiritual aspect of the Heart.
Curbing Label Overwhelm
For the average consumer, reading a food package can be overwhelming: natural, organic, non-GMO, gluten free, free range ... you get the picture.
New Medical Technologies You Need to Know
We're all familiar with how fast computers become obsolete, as well as the rapid pace of development in the field of cell phone technology. The latest smart phones are far more powerful than desktop computers were only a few years ago.
Immunizations by Colorado DCs: Really?
You probably didn't hear about it, but back on Nov. 21, 2013, the Board of Directors of the Colorado Chiropractic Association (CCA) adopted "immunization authority" for Colorado DCs as its No. 2 legislative goal.
Peer Points: Always Seeking To Grow
Ellen "Kiki" Geary has spent the last decade honing her craft. As a specialist in integrative holistic care, she went straight from completing her master's degree in acupuncture and chinese herbal medicine from Bastyr University to building a successful and thriving practice in the small community of Anacortes, Washington.
The Science of Stretching
In 1986, Rob DeCastella set a course record by running the Boston Marathon in 2:07:51, just 39 seconds off the world record.
A Chinese Medicine Story: An Interview with Mazin Al-Khafaji
Mazin Al-Khafaji's work has interested me for years. In February 2014, we invited him for the second time to speak at the Southwest Symposium in Austin, Texas.
Finders Keepers: The Secret to Relationship-Based Marketing
Becoming a successful practitioner has less to do with what you learned in school, and more to do with your ability to find new patients and keep them!
By the Numbers: 3 Common Financial Mistakes With Major Consequences
Warren Buffett is on record for sharing the hidden art of becoming wealthy and making it simple enough for anyone to grasp.
November, 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 11
An Alternative Approach to Stretching
By Whitney Lowe, LMT
Clinicians, athletes and rehabilitation specialists advocate stretching as a means for injury prevention and treatment. The primary purpose of any stretching technique is to enhance pliability and flexibility in the soft tissues. It is also routinely incorporated with massage in the treatment of pain and injury conditions. There are many different stretching techniques, which all fall into one of three primary categories: static, ballistic or active-assisted stretching.
Static stretching is the most common. In static stretching, you bring the target muscle into a lengthened position and hold it there until you have achieved the desired stretch. The ideal length of time to hold a static stretch is debated in the literature and the results appear inconclusive. Somewhere around 15 to 20 seconds is a common time frame that achieves good clinical results.
Ballistic stretching is used most commonly in the athletic environment. During a ballistic stretch, you bob or bounce into a stretch to encourage tissue elongation in the muscle. Ballistic stretching works by using the momentum of the moving limb to extend past the initial limitation of range of motion. Many people oppose the use of ballistic stretching because the rapid elongation of muscle tissue in the bouncing motion can activate the stretch reflex, which would be counterproductive to stretching.
In active-assisted stretching, the client actively engages a specific muscle contraction prior to, or during, the stretching procedure. There is a variety of active-assisted techniques and they go by different names such as PNF, muscle-energy technique, active isolated stretching or facilitated stretching. There are slight variations in each of these methods, but they are all based on the neurological principles of post-isometric relaxation (PIR) and reciprocal inhibition. Experiments that compare active-assisted methods with static or ballistic stretching show the greatest range of motion gains with active-assisted methods.
Immediately following an isometric contraction, there is an increased degree of relaxation in that same muscle. This immediate reduction in neurological activity is called the post-isometric relaxation (PIR). The methods of active-assisted stretching use the window of reduced neurological activity during the PIR to engage a stretch of the target muscle after it has isometrically contracted. Stretching during the PIR is more effective than stretching without the prior isometric contraction.
The other neurological principle that is of important in active-assisted stretching methods is reciprocal inhibition. When an agonist (target) muscle contracts, there is a neurological inhibition of its antagonist (opposite) muscle. The reduction in neurological activity in the antagonist muscle is called reciprocal inhibition. Because reciprocal inhibition decreases neurological activity in muscles opposite the ones being contracted, it is helpful to use during stretching procedures. Stretching of the target muscle is enhanced when its opposite muscle is contracted at the same time (Fig. 1).
The various techniques of active-assisted stretching advocate different lengths of time to hold the isometric contraction prior to stretch. Initial research has indicated that a relatively short period of nonmaximal isometric contraction (about 3 seconds) seems most effective for holding the contraction prior to stretch.1 These methods also vary in the length of time that the stretch is held. A study investigating active-assisted stretching compared stretch duration times of 3 seconds and 30 seconds and found no significant difference in the outcomes between the two time periods.2 More research is needed to determine the ideal stretching method(s). It may turn out that the optimum stretching method depends on the situation in which it is being used.
Effective Stretching Procedures
Each of the stretching procedures mentioned above must take into account the biomechanical and neurological properties of the myofascial unit. Therefore, all stretching procedures engage two primary components: the physical stretch of muscle and connective tissue (mechanical effects) as well as the reduction in neurological resistance to stretch (neuromuscular effects).
Fascia is interwoven throughout muscles in an extensive network. It has viscous properties that respond better to slow, sustained tensile loads and resist rapid elongation.3 The process of connective tissue gradually lengthening when a sustained stretch is applied to it is called creep. The extensive fascial network running through all muscles suggests greater benefit for longer-duration stretching methods to take advantage of connective-tissue creep.
The neurological resistance to stretch is primarily governed by a specialized proprioceptor called the muscle spindle. It is responsive to both the rate of muscle stretching and the amount of stretch in the tissue. If the muscle is stretched too fast or too far, the muscle spindle sends signals to the central nervous system and an immediate muscle contraction is engaged to prevent overstretching. This immediate muscle contraction is called the myotatic (or stretch) reflex. Stretching procedures attempt to minimize any recruitment of the stretch reflex.
An Alternative Method
Manual-therapy practitioners have been excited by recent research studies enhancing our understanding of the physiological properties of fascia. We have recently learned that fascia contains contractile cells and is capable of releasing its contraction and further elongating when a prolonged tensile load is applied to it.4 Armed with this new understanding, we can use the physiological properties of fascia to enhance stretching procedures. Combining active-assisted stretching methods with fascial-elongation methods would address both the neuromuscular and connective-tissue components of the stretching process.
Consider hamstring stretching as an example of how this works. Engage the hamstrings in a short 3-second nonmaximal contraction. Release the contraction and bring the hamstrings into a stretched position (Fig. 2). Have the individual attempt to further stretch the hamstrings by attempting to flex the hip as far as possible (as they did in Fig. 1). This movement engages the reciprocal inhibition process and encourages further lengthening. While this position is held, apply a myofascial-stretch technique (with the hand or back side of the fist) to the hamstrings and hold it for about 30 to 60 seconds. Holding the myofascial stretch encourages relaxation of the fascial contractile cells and enhances connective tissue creep.
Both the neuromuscular and connective-tissue components of the stretch are emphasized by combining these myofascial and active-assisted stretching techniques. I have found this stretching method helpful with a number of chronically tight muscles. In the future, it will be valuable to perform comparative studies with this and other stretching techniques to find out which ones are most effective under various clinical circumstances.
Click here for more information about Whitney Lowe, LMT.
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