Stretching, Should You Stretch?

Static stretching (SS) has been used as part of a warm up protocol for many years. It is common to see teams of every code, athletes, cyclists, etc, stretching before their chosen discipline. It is also common among all levels of athletes to incorporate SS into their cool down regime. This methodical approach has been indoctrinated into us for many years by well meaning parents, coaches, teachers, etc. However there is very little evidence to show the benefits of stretching. The supposed benefits of static stretching (SS) are to:

Low Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the most common complaints I hear about as a physical therapist. On the positives, 80-90% of episodes of low back pain resolve within 2 -3 months (Hides et al. 1996). Of the 5-10% that do develop chronic low back pain, 85% are classified as “non specific low back pain” (Dillingham 1995). This infers that there is no specific entity that anyone can point to, and say this is causing your pain.

Hamstring Injury

The etiology of hamstring injury fall into two categories. The sprinting type injury and the stretching type injury. Hamstring injuries affect a wide variety of sports from track & field to soccer, rugby, GAA, gymnasts, and martial arts. Despite recent research into rehabilitation, recurrence and time to return to play, injury recurrence is high.

It is thought that the injury mechanism resulting from sprinting is caused by overload of the biceps femoris and semitendonis intramuscular tendon while decelerating, during the terminal swing phase of the gait cycle. Injuries affecting dancers and gymnasts, result in the proximal free tendon(semimembranous) being put in a position of extreme stretch. This can occur at fast or slow movements that involve simulatenous hip flexion and knee extension.