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Does Stretching Help Prevent Muscle Injuries?

There has been a lot of ongoing debate whether or not stretching before exercise helps. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has finally released the results of its research of more than 350 case studies regarding stretching and muscle injury.

So does stretching have an effect on muscle injury prevention? Unless you’re a gymnast, then stretching those muscles before some serious exercise does very little to impact or avoid muscle strain and tear.

According to CDC’s Julie Gilchrist, M.D., one of the researchers for the study, she explained that it is the warming up that averts muscle strain. Poor exercise techniques are usually the causes of muscle injuries such as a rip or tear. It is essential to be informed with how the body’s connective tissues work and its biochemical functions.

The human body is equipped to handle strain but only to a certain degree. The legs and arms have limited range of motions that incorrect body mechanics can wreak instant damage. If you are stress-loading an arm with a barbell, then contorting the rest of body raises your risk of injury.

An Overview on Muscle Tear

When undue pressure such as sudden heavy lifting during workout during sports activities or even performing routine tasks, you risk damage to muscle fibers and its attaching tendons. Small blood vessels can also tear resulting in localized bleeding and therefore bruising or inflammation.

Some of the symptoms of muscle tear are:

–          Pain even when at rest

–          Bruising, inflammation and redness

–          Limited movement

–          Inability to move the muscle

In instances where you have injured a muscle, protect the torn muscle from further injury by resting and avoiding activities that can aggravate the damage. You can also ice the bruised area every 20 minutes as this would counteract the swelling and can provide some pain relief. However, if these home remedies do not help or the pain and swelling has not subsided in the next 24 hours, seek medical help.

Warm-Up’s, Why They are Important

The psychological and physiological benefits of warming up are many. Athletes and physically active individuals perform some type of warm-up before going into their daily exercise routine. It is the warming up that gives any athlete or workout enthusiast the needed flexibility, revving the muscles and conditioning them for the strenuous activity.

Experts say that proper warm-ups work to increase the circulation and blood flow to the muscles that are being exercised. As a result, muscle stiffness is avoided and performance is optimized. Other benefits of warming up also include:

  • Increases cooling efficiency by activating the body’s heat-reducing mechanism. This is also known as efficient sweating where the person who is working out is prevented from overheating.
  • Better range of motion. Flexibility of the joints is increased allowing more mobility and strength.
  • Improved blood temperature. This aids the body’s oxygen to lessen its bind on the hemoglobin of the blood. In effect, oxygen is readily distributed and utilized.
  • Increased temperature of the body. This essentially results in pliability of the muscles making it less prone to injury.
  • Elevated muscle temperature. Warming up increases the temperature within the muscles which makes it more elastic and easy to contract.  It also aids the muscles that are being worked out to relax more quickly.
  • Overstretching of the muscles is reduced.
  • Dilatation of the blood vessels means better circulation and lower stress to the heart.
  • Warming up hypes the production of different hormone production that promotes regulation of energy output.
  • Psychological prep. The warm up is an ideal time to clear the mind and prepare a focused, clear vision of the upcoming exercise or activity.

*Note that warm-ups don’t include stretching alone.

thumbnail photo credit: blog.gaiam.com