No Sooner Do We decide To Follow The Latest Medical Advice Then They Change Their Minds
The way to lose weight according to just about every health adviser on the planet was to eat fewer calories. This was then modified to read, "be sure to cut down on fatty foods as well so that you don't clog your blood vessels." Now, guess what! Everyone's switching to Atkins' theory that it's really the sugar in your diet that's causing all the trouble.
How about psychological problems: It used to be that Freudian principles were in vogue, then just sitting back and being a good listener while the poor soul talked his or her heart out was the way to go. Next came, "forget the talk, simply take this pill and you'll be just fine." Now everyone's worried because those pills are creating addicts who can't get off them.
A paper by Herbert and Gabriel in the August 31, 2002 issue of BMJ caught my interest back then because throughout my life, whenever I played any sport, I just went out and played. This was pretty much the way we all did it when I was a kid. It worked for me so I never changed my approach, but I was frequently queried, especially in recent years, as to why I didn't do stretching exercises before playing. Since I had never been injured while playing any sport while many stretch enthusiasts seemed to end up in trouble, I continued my contrary ways. And now here was a paper broaching the subject which was titled "Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review." The idea was to see what effect stretching before and after exercise might have on muscle soreness after exercise. They also wanted to know whether there was more or less injury, and whether the stretching improved athletic performance. In order to obtain relevant information the authors did a systematic review of the medical literature and located five studies with enough data fitting within the methodological quality of a special scale to satisfy their curiosity. Based on my previous comments about the changing face of medical advice, you probably have some idea as to their results. Well, it's not a complete upheaval but it does lead to some soul searching.
Muscle soreness was reduced somewhat by stretching, but the difference was small, and when submitted to statistical evaluation proved to be non-significant. As for risk of injury, recruits in military training did not have any useful reduction if they stretched before exercising. Unfortunately, the research that has been done in the past was found to be insufficient to support stretching or non-stretching as a way to improve sporting performance.
So there you have it: For the moment at least, we appear to be at an impasse. It doesn't seem to matter, one way or the other, whether you prefer to stretch before and/or after exercising. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. In the meanwhile I'll keep my eyes open for any well-run studies on the subject.
When they gonna get it straight?
Hope it's soon and not too late.
Should I stretch before I play,
When I exercise today?
Goodness, gracious what a tussle
Every time I warm my muscle,
By the time I get to hit that ball,
I'm just too weak to play at all.
Cartoons and Poems following each article are created and copyrighted by Dr. Ackerman and cannot be copied or reproduced without his permission.
Copyright © 2006 by Marvin Ackerman, M.D.