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Stretching and massage don't help muscles

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  • Carlos_421Carlos_421 Posts: 4,926Member, Premium Member Posts: 4,926Member, Premium Member
    Orphia wrote: »
    Carlos_421 wrote: »
    I dont think it's news that stretching pre-exercise is a dated concept and actually tends to impede progress. It's been a long time since I've seen static stretching recommended as part of a warm up and the vast majority of articles, magazines and even blogs will recommend dynamic movements for warming up and discourage pre-workout static stretching.

    That said, there's a difference between "static stretching doesn't decrease DOMS" and "stretching doesn't help muscles."

    Just because stretching shouldn't be done just before a workout doesn't mean that mobility work doesn't have health benefits. Same goes for massage.

    Thanks very much, Carlos. This is your first reply. I thought I'd replied to it, but maybe I didn't explain clearly.

    Mobility work helps joints and tendons, yes.

    I just don't think I know of a physical reason why stretching or massage help muscles as opposed to joints and ligaments.

    Keep in mind this part of my OP:

    After the "good pain" stops, you only feel "better" because:

    A. You're just relieved the pain from the stretch/massage is over;
    B. You feel nice from the attention you or the masseur has given you;
    C. The placebo effect (you'd hate to admit you were kidding yourself any of this helps).



    All I ever see are bald assertions saying "it helps", and I'd love to understand how and why.

    For example:

    Massaging "knots"... What is a knot in medical terms, and how does pressing on it heal it?

    Pulling/stretching hamstrings via touching your toes... How does it help the fascia, tissues, muscle fibres?


    ETA: I've had quite a few massages and done loads of stretching, so I've thought about this from many angles.


    I can see the argument that the benefits are seen in ligaments and joints rather than the muscles themselves when it comes to stretching, though at the same time I dont really think it's all placebo when I feel stiff and some good stretching helps me to "loosen up."
    Granted, I'm not talking about pain...more like that crampy, stiff feeling. Stretching seems to genuinely offer relief for me there.

    There's one instance where I'm sure it wasnt placebo that stretching alleviated pain for me but I'm also fairly sure it wasnt muscle related.
    I had some bad hip and lower back pain and a friend who's done some physical therapy work said "oh that's your such and such (I dont remember what he called it), aggravated from standing on this concrete all day."
    He had me lay on my back while he turned my leg and put weight down to stretch whatever it was in my hip (and boy did I feel the "good pain" you mentioned).
    Afterward, I didn't just feel relief from the stretch. My lower back legitimately stopped hurting for several hours.
    But again, to your point, I'm fairly sure this was a ligament issue, not muscular.
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 17,070Member Member Posts: 17,070Member Member
    The weirdness that can happen from one set of muscles being tight, causing imbalance and pain elsewhere, is not unheard of, and mapped out in many stretching programs. Tight, weak, unbalance, ect.
    Unequal leg problems cause this all the time to people.

    My own "study tests" for stretching involve the simple act of 5 min walk after running.
    If there is no run again for like 3-4 days - that is enough, my twanging achilles don't act up on the next run.
    If the program is another run in 2 days - I better at least while walking do the bent knee calf/achilles stretch while walking. That is barely enough.
    If the program is another run tomorrow - I better hit the stairs at home and do both straight and bent-knee calf stretches. Or the next day is going to be bad during or after the run.

    In both those cases - the stretch is felt so much more in the achilles, but I know there is obviously mainly muscle stretch, and really no way to separate them, since a tight muscle leads to the tight feeling tendon.

    If I do a longer than normal run and don't do the walking stretch at minimum - achilles will feel so tight. Muscle never does usually, though it must be. But indeed, only stretching day later rarely helps much, have to go for a walk to get blood flow, then stretch.

    If I run in this state of already tight, blood flow or nerve pinch to foot is effected and it will be numb and unable to feel it to some severity. Finished some marathon/half's where it started cold and that lead to tight calf/tendon and numb foot, learned there to wear warmup pants on lap around business park before route hit the streets, park in the right place and throw the pants in car.

  • OrphiaOrphia Posts: 6,914Member Member Posts: 6,914Member Member
    Yay, now we're back to the nuanced and insightful stuff.
    I :heart: you @CSARdiver @Carlos_421 @heybales @NorthCascades :smile:

    I probably should have said earlier about doing lots of stretching and having massages myself which made me really wonder if it was actually doing much good.

    For example, last year I did the splits every day for a few months. After only 3 days I got used to the pain and could push through it and could get flat to the floor. But I was still never any closer to the ground when it started hurting for the whole 3 months of doing the splits daily.

    Yes, it appears studies haven't been designed/done yet to determine the effect of stretching/massage on fascia, tissues, fibres.

    You would hope massaging "knots" would have some sort of evidence, since it's so ingrained in culture.

    I know a marathon runner who was part of tests last year where they took rather gory samples from his thigh muscle before and after a marathon. Might look into that as a long shot, and see where it leads, eg if I can find any key words/names/departments and look further.
  • firef1y72firef1y72 Posts: 1,457Member Member Posts: 1,457Member Member
    I am not saying that I don't believe this. I am just wondering what the explanation for my own experience is then. Why is it that I can not walk because I am in so much stiffness and pain after long runs if I don't stretch or do yoga after? When I do yoga after or have a long stretching session, it greatly reduces the pain and stiffness. Every time I forgo my usual stretching and yoga, I end up not being able to walk without pain for a few days. Why is this if stretching obviously doesn't help?

    I'm wondering about my experience too.
    I don't do static stretching before exercise, I have a dynamic stretching/warm up I do before a long run and then I do static stretches after. The day after a marathon I have a deep stretch session with my pt , where after the dynamic stuff she stretches me right out. And it really does help ease the aches and pains, along with the hot baths and foam rolling throughout the first few days. And then I have a sports massage a few days later that completes the recovery process.
  • erekstrusinski1989erekstrusinski1989 Posts: 42Member Member Posts: 42Member Member
    It doesn't really matter what physical activity you do or the order you do them in, as long as you're physically active it's all good. Stretching helps mobility and reduces the chances of joint or ligament injuries. Don't overthink like these science nerds.
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Posts: 12,193Member Member Posts: 12,193Member Member
    I don't know whether I should be waking this thread from its nap, especially only to add subjectivity, but . . . .
    Orphia wrote: »
    Yay, now we're back to the nuanced and insightful stuff.
    I :heart: you @CSARdiver @Carlos_421 @heybales @NorthCascades :smile:

    I probably should have said earlier about doing lots of stretching and having massages myself which made me really wonder if it was actually doing much good.

    For example, last year I did the splits every day for a few months. After only 3 days I got used to the pain and could push through it and could get flat to the floor. But I was still never any closer to the ground when it started hurting for the whole 3 months of doing the splits daily.

    Hmm. I've had contrasting experiences. For example, I found that daily stretching really accelerated progress toward getting beyond able to touch my toes, even after age 50 when some had told me progress was no longer possible (wtf?). (Going past touching toes is not a thing that's valuable in itself, necessarily, but flexibility in that chain contributes to length and therefore effectiveness in on-water rowing.) I'd been stretching on some kind of desultory schedule; daily stretching made for much faster progress. Perhaps there's some "natural limit" for each of our bodies, and I'd been underperforming mine? Dunno.

    BTW, I'm not talking about pre-exercise stretching specifically, but about stretching for its own sake. Normally, when I'm being good with regular stretching, I do it first thing in this morning, and it makes my joints feel somehow "well oiled". I have no idea what that would be in physiological terms! :)
    Yes, it appears studies haven't been designed/done yet to determine the effect of stretching/massage on fascia, tissues, fibres.

    It would be interesting to see such things, but I have to admit I care more about the practical effects of my n = 1. For example, if I start having a certain type of hip pain, I start doing the piriformis stretches my osteopath recommended for it, and the pain gradually backs off. Could be the placebo effect - which I agree with Csardiver is more subtle than simple self-deception (if I'm understanding him correctly). But I don't really care why, as long as it's simple, convenient, cheap, non-risky . . . and it works.

    There does seem to be an academic literature about this stuff somewhere, or so I infer: My MT is a science-y kind of dude, and sometimes tells me about studies he's read that debunk common assumptions about massage and other bodywork . . . to the point where it seems like he sometimes wonders if his professional field works at all! But it makes me feel "better", so I don't really care. ;)

    I don't know what publications he's reading, though.

    An aside: Subjective experience makes me believe massage does something unusual with moving fluid through tissue . . . at least my need to urinate prodigiously after massages suggests it might. ;)
    You would hope massaging "knots" would have some sort of evidence, since it's so ingrained in culture.

    I've wondered if it mostly just helps bring one's attention to the specific point of tension, enabling/encouraging one to relax it.

    This is not the same thing at all, but I recently did a physical therapy stint for cording and scar tissue from my long-ago mastectomy/axillary dissection surgeries and radiation. The therapy mostly consisted of massage to the corded/scarred area (chest wall, underarm, down the arm), and materially reduced the hardness of that tissue (to the touch) and improved my range of motion, among other effects. The area literally looks different. (I wish I'd thought to take before/after photos, to prove it.) So, I think something can happen in that realm from massage. Curiously, it also seems to have reduced a decades-long tendency for a "knot" to form persistently between my shoulder & neck. Bodies are weird.
    I know a marathon runner who was part of tests last year where they took rather gory samples from his thigh muscle before and after a marathon. Might look into that as a long shot, and see where it leads, eg if I can find any key words/names/departments and look further.
  • cemetreecemetree Posts: 18Member, Premium Member Posts: 18Member, Premium Member
    Stretches should not hurt. If stretches hurt people are pushing them too hard. Stretching before an activity has been proven an ill idea because people can hurt themselves by stretching when not warmed up. Warming up gets blood flow going faster and helps the stretch. Stretches help with flexibility, not DOMS or strength.
  • LivingtheLeanDreamLivingtheLeanDream Posts: 12,308Member Member Posts: 12,308Member Member
    I've never been a fan of stretching, always just did a warm up and cool down - if it aint broke.....
  • stinkyfungusstinkyfungus Posts: 11Member Member Posts: 11Member Member
    I think it also depends on the exercise. We always stretch as part of the warm up for gymnastics and dance. I'd hate to jump into a floor routine or full split leap without stretching.

    This.

    Back in the day I found It’s a lot easier to kick another 6’ guy in the face with some real power if you limber up a little before you hit the mat.

    Just sayin’

  • heybalesheybales Posts: 17,070Member Member Posts: 17,070Member Member
    Re: “knots” I had this happen a lot in the muscles around my lower back and hip area when I had a flare up of SI joint dysfunction. My physiotherapist explained muscle fibres cannot actually knot but it is a small area of hard cramping/ spasming muscle fibres so “knot” just describes what it feels like. It’s a reflex action often to pain. She said there’s no concrete evidence for massage doing anything but applying pressure directly to the “knot” seems to interrupt the reflex action and allow the small clump of muscle fibres to relax.

    This and local damage can have scarring between muscle fibers that should be sliding.

    After my shoulder surgery where they spread the fibers to go between them - therapist spent several sessions creating some great pain breaking that up to confirm they would still slide and move as they should.

    That same theory is applied to the Active Release Technique that I was skeptical about, but tried after a workout where I did something too much and had specific injury area, and despite weeks of stretching and laying off it was remaining very tight and causing imbalance in the hips, which then led to some fun sciatica and other stuff.
    1 painful session there and next day not tight. 1 more followup just to confirm and that was it.

    But that is not normally needed routine, but for trauma to a spot.
  • OrphiaOrphia Posts: 6,914Member Member Posts: 6,914Member Member
    stretching is ineffective unless done for long periods of time e.g 1 hour on your hamstrings. Your body just tightens back into its natural position after otherwise.

    No.

    What would be the point of not having your body in its natural position?

    Dynamic stretch pre work such as leg swings etc is good for blood flow to your muscles and synovial fluid production in the joints. Static stretching pre resistance training is counter productive, weakening the muscle and frankly pointless.

    Agreed on the whole, though I'm not sure about dynamic stretching improving synovial fluid production in joints, although it's clear dynamic stretching before a plyometric or run workout helps joint mobility.

    I did some Googling (woah, so much woo when you use "stretching" in the search terms!) and digging into things, it seems that joint rotation/motion lubricates them with synovial fluid. Is that what you meant instead?
    edited June 28
  • LyndaBSSLyndaBSS Posts: 5,887Member, Premium Member Posts: 5,887Member, Premium Member
    All I know is that stretching and massage both helped my muscles incredibly when I had my joint replacement surgeries.
  • lukejoycePTlukejoycePT Posts: 149Member, Premium Member Posts: 149Member, Premium Member
    LyndaBSS wrote: »
    All I know is that stretching and massage both helped my muscles incredibly when I had my joint replacement surgeries.


    That’s great to hear. Rehab is crucial after surgery such as yours. Joints are normally the things that give us trouble not the muscles themselves, they normally just knott and give us discomfort.

    People view swelling as a bad thing but it’s our bodies way of protecting the joint/affected area. Side note. Pain is also important for a quick recovery, by taking pain meds you are suppressing the speed at which you body recovers.

    I wasn’t talking about rehab though, just pre exercise warm ups etc.
  • OrphiaOrphia Posts: 6,914Member Member Posts: 6,914Member Member
    LyndaBSS wrote: »
    All I know is that stretching and massage both helped my muscles incredibly when I had my joint replacement surgeries.

    Could you explain in more detail?




    Pain is also important for a quick recovery, by taking pain meds you are suppressing the speed at which you body recovers.

    If you mean pain meds such as NSAIDs (anti-inflammatories) then no, you don't want to take those after/during hard exercise. (They actually ban them from some ultra-marathons due to past occurrences of them causing kidney damage.)

    But if you mean you shouldn't take paracetamol or aspirin for the pain, you're very likely wrong about that.

    People view swelling as a bad thing but it’s our bodies way of protecting the joint/affected area.

    Indeed!

    "Inflammation" is a real buzzword that people freak out about these days.

    Fluid and blood in the affected area is actually how the body heals muscle fibre micro-tears (for example, formed during the normal process of exercise intensity).

    The fluid and blood in the area helps muscles grow stronger.

    Trying to reduce the "inflammation" is not helpful at all.

    And pushing and pulling the muscles during this cellular process is pointless.
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