Preventing Sports Injuries: Stretching Exercises

Medical research has proven that an increase in the flexibility of a muscle unit increases performance and reduces the amount of injuries sustained. Basic stretching exercises include warming up and cooling down sessions. The main mechanism is due to the loosen tendons after stretching which is less prone to tears when used. Stretching also helps to reduce the recovery time in-between sessions and increases the biomechanical efficiency.

There are basically 3 main types of stretching namely static, ballistic and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Static stretching is the most common and the safest amongst the 3. Static stretching works by slowly pulling the muscles towards its maximum end range of motion for a duration of 15 seconds. This is done in a painless and controlled environment and during the stretching exercise no sudden jerks should be made. It is performed for usually for 3 sets and after which an increase in flexibility will be observed. Static stretching should also be performed after the exercise to aid in recovery. Studies have shown that stretching can help to dissipate the lactic acid build up in the muscles which are responsible for the soreness experienced post-exercise.

Ballistic stretching on the other hand uses the momentum of a moving body to stretch it beyond the normal range of motion. This is also known as bouncing stretching which pulls your muscles through exercises such as bouncing on a trampoline while stretching the back. Medical studies have concluded that this is not useful and can lead to injuries since it stretches your muscles suddenly instead of progressively as seen in static stretches.

Last but not least is the proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretch. It is the fastest and most effective stretching method that combines passive and isometric stretching to obtain maximum flexibility. PNF stretch was originally intended for recovering stroke victims. It works by passively stretching the muscles and then contracting it isometrically and repeating over and over again.

Stretching can be easily performed anywhere regardless of the activity you are about to perform. In fact, stretching should not be considered a warm up exercise. You should perform stretching even before you commence your warming up exercises. Always keep your stretches sport specific so that you work the correct muscle groups. Remember to always exercise caution when doing stretches and do not work muscle groups that are injured or it can be further aggravated.

Preventing Osteoarthritis through Exercise

Osteoarthritis is a significant degenerative disease that affects the joints. It appears most commonly in the lower extremities which includes the knee and ankles. The reason why the lower extremities are favoured is due to the immense amount of stresses experienced each day. Despite the high prevalence of Osteoarthritis, it can be prevented through simple exercises. We will discuss in this article about how best to prevent Osteoarthritis through daily exercises.

Studies have concluded that exercises can help to prevent Osteoarthritis. Light exercises such as walking are able to effectively reduce the development of osteoarthritis while heavy ones can lead to an increase. As we age, our cartilage becomes less flexible and more brittle. As a result, it cannot work as effectively as before. Exercising frequently helps to prevent muscle atrophy and this is beneficial for those suffering from degenerative joint problems. Exercising frequently helps to build muscle mass, increase strength and flexibility. Patients who complain of pain while exercising should consider aquatic-based exercises which are pain free due to the buoyancy of water.


Flexibility exercises

The aim of flexibility exercises is to increase mobility in the joints and reduce stiffness. Simple flexibility exercises can help to stretch the surrounding muscles and increase blood flow to the region.


Leg stretch

Sit down on the floor and bend your knees while holding the soles together. Hold your ankles firmly and slowly push your knee down using your elbow. You will be able to feel a stretch on the inner part of your leg. Remember to do this slowly or you risk pulling your quad muscles.

Lower back stretch

Lie flat on a piece of yoga mat whilst extending your legs. Get into a position similar to when you are doing crunches but instead of holding your ankles, hold your knee this time round. Pull your knees towards you at a slow but consistent pace while maintaining proper breathing techniques.

Low impact aerobic exercises

Low impact aerobic exercises such as swimming and cycling are gentle on your joints yet improving your cardiovascular function effectively. While people commonly associate osteoarthritis with aging, it does not seem to be the case now. There is an increasing trend in younger patients suffering from osteoarthritis. Instead of participating in high impact sports such as soccer and running, consider making the switch to low impacts ones.
There is no effective cure for osteoarthritis yet and the only way is to manage it with medication and exercises in an attempt to live with the pain and go on with your life.

4 Exercises for Back Pain Relief

Relief from back pain can be obtained from simple back exercises that helps to stretch, loosen and strengthen the back muscles. Our body is designed in a way that the back muscles must work in tandem with the spinal cord and the soft tissues such as the ligaments and tendons. If there are any restriction to the movement, it will cause discomfort and pain for the patient. Back pain is an orthopaedic condition that requires special attention to be given to it. There are some good exercises that can help to provide pain relief and let’s discuss them below.

Myofascial Release

Lie down on a gym mat or on your bed depending on your comfort level as different surfaces will provide different level of pressure. Lay on one side of your body and place an exercise ball beneath it. The ball should be positioned at the muscular region at the side of the spine and slowly place your entire body weight onto the exercise ball. Do not attempt to move about or bounce up and down.

Forward stretch on a chair

Sit down on a chair that does not have any rollers. Place both of your feet firmly on the ground and sit upright. Slowly start to lean forward and stretch towards your toes while keeping your neck in a relaxed position. When you feel tightness in your back, hold in that position for 15 seconds and slowly return to the original position. Repeat this exercise for 10 times and whenever you can throughout the day. This will help to stretch and relax the back muscles.

Knees to chest

Lie down on a soft surface such as a gym mat or on your bed. Maintain a straight posture and slowly bring both of your knees towards your chest. You should be able to feel tightness in your back and hold in that position for 15 seconds. Repeat this exercise for 10 times and whenever you can throughout the day. This will help to stretch and relax the back muscles.

Piriformis stretch

Strong gluteus muscles can help to better support the body’s weight and take some load off the spinal cord. The piriformis muscles is at the buttock region and if the muscles are weak, it can cause pain in the lower back. Lie down on a soft surface and place one leg over the other and pull towards your stomach. You will be able to feel a tightening sensation at the buttock region and hold for 15 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position and change legs. Repeat this exercise for 20 times.

Exercises will help to stretch and strengthen the back muscles to provide pain relief. Most exercises require minimal space and can be performed throughout the day whenever you are free. Do not attempt to stretch beyond your limits and remember not to over exert the injured muscles.