Static vs. Dynamic Stretching

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When it comes to stretching, one of the most common questions today is, “Should I be holding my stretch, or should I be doing something more dynamic?” The classic adage I learned in PT school that applies here as well is, “It depends.” While it is generally understood that stretching can be, and often is, a good thing for the body, knowing how and when to apply it can lead to more effective outcomes.

The more traditionally practiced way of stretching is called “static” stretching. This is when you are holding a position for a certain amount of time with the goal of lengthening whatever muscle you are trying to target (e.g. hip flexor stretch).

This form of stretching is generally good for helping with increasing range of motion (ROM), but it isn’t necessarily making the muscle longer. To get a little nerdy about it, what is potentially happening is that the muscles are being provided a stimulus that helps to increase their tolerance to stretching. Parameters for static stretching vary, but 30 seconds to 1 minute is a good general rule of thumb.

  (panagaclub.com)

(panagaclub.com)

One thing that is important to note, however, is that research has shown static stretching prior to certain activities (e.g. running & jumping) can be potentially detrimental when it comes to muscle strength and performance. A max contraction of the muscle being stretched prior to performing the stretch may help with reducing this effect, so talking to someone that is knowledgeable about your respective activity can help you get a better idea of how to approach your stretching.

Now, the other form of stretching that is more commonly utilized today (in conjunction with static stretching) is what’s called “dynamic” stretching. This form of stretching often takes either a part, or the entirety, of a movement that is involved in your activity and has you actively move through it repeatedly to help “warm up” your body. This form of stretching does not affect muscular performance and is thus often used before any type of exercise activity.

  (REI.com)

(REI.com)

With all of that being said, the big picture is that both static and dynamic stretching have a place when it comes to helping your body operate at its fullest potential. What is also important to remember is that stretching in isolation may not necessarily lead to significant changes as the increased ROM that you achieve needs to be able to be controlled. Thus, strengthening usually goes hand in hand with stretching as well.

If you’d like to know more, feel free to let us know your thoughts, as we’d love to hear from you!

Dr. Kevin Cheung, PT, DPT

Running and Low Back Pain

For many people, running is a great way to stay active and healthy.  But there are many running related injuries that can occur due to a lack of mobility, stability or faulty running mechanics.   The most common running fault I see as a therapist is someone who runs with increased lumbar lordosis, or curvature, in their low back.  If you run, it might feel like you’re leading with your chest.  A couple reasons why a runner can adopt this running posture include tightness in their hip flexors and/or low back muscles, poor diaphragmatic breathing, or decreased core strength.  In order for them to run, they arch their back to find stability in their facet joints of their lumbar spine.  Over time, this can lead to increased low back pain.

If you want to be an efficient runner and decrease your risk for injuries, it’s vital to learn how to stretch and strengthen the appropriate muscles.  If you find yourself running with an increased curve in your low back, try stretching your hip flexors and working on some core and hip strengthening exercises before your next run.  This will give you more stability to make you a faster and more efficient runner.

If you experience low back pain when you run and have questions on how a physical therapist can help you achieve your goals, please let us know.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Dr. Raymond Shing, PT, DPT

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Am I deadlifting properly?

Dr. Matthew Starling here, and today I’m going to look a bit more at the particularities of the deadlift.

Two common things I see when people go down into a deadlift is that their shoulders and hips stay inline and there isn't much change. It all sort of stays in the unit, but the knees are shifting far forward. So if I'm doing my deadlifts like this, it's actually more of a squat than anything else. So if you're doing your deadlifts that way, well, you're not really doing a deadlift. You're not working the areas that you need to.

The second type I see frequently is not driving forward in the knees. People go down fine but then at the very end, there's a bit of a “butt wink.” Instead of keeping the back flat, the hips tuck under that way. The problem with this is you're going down, you're stable, stable, stable, and then at the end, it shifts, which means your low back is no longer protected.

On any given day people are lifting hundreds of pounds. The weight doesn't matter, when you go into an improper position and your low back isn't protected anymore, that's when you start to feel pain or tightness. The best way to go about this is to get evaluated so we can diagnose your patterns and help fix the problem beforehand.

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Let’s talk about the 7 biggest mistakes athletes make when they get injured so that you (or your son/daughter) won’t do any of them and can get back to playing as fast (and safely) as possible.

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