Making your stretching more effective.
While I was making linguine and clam sauce for my family, one of my favorite foods that I haven’t had in quite some time( and listening to Dream Theater of course) I was thinking about this post. Then I remembered about voice recognition on my iMac. Talk about multitasking!
What do you agree that stretching is good or not, you or your client still may decide to do so possibly because of the “feel good” component. Make sure to see this post here on “feel good” part from a few weeks ago.
If you do decide to stretch, make sure you take advantage of you or your clients neurology. There are many ways to do this. One way we will discuss today is taking advantage of what we call myotatic reflex.
The myotatic reflex is a simple reflex arc. The reflex begins at the receptor in the muscle (blue neuron above) : the muscle spindles (nuclear bag or nuclear chain fibers). This sensory (afferent) information then travels up the peripheral nerve to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord where it enters and synapses in the ventral horn on an alpha motor neuron. The motor neuron (efferent) leaves the ventral horn and travels back down the peripheral nerve to the contractile portion of the myfibrils (muscle fiber) from which the the sensory (afferent) signal came (red neuron above). This causes the muscle to contract. Think of a simple reflex when somebody taps a reflex hammer on your tendon. This causes the muscle to contract and your limb moves.
Nuclear bag and nuclear chain fibers detect length or stretch in a the muscle whereas Golgi Tendon organs tension. We have discussed this in other posts here. With this in mind, slow stretch of a muscle causes it to contract more, through the muscle spindle mechanism.
Another reflex that we should be familiar with is called reciprocal inhibition. It states simply that when one muscle (the agonist) contracts it’s antagonist is inhibited (green neuron above). You can find more on reciprocal inhibition here.
Take advantage of both of these reflexes? Try this:
- do a calf stretch like this: put your foot in dorsiflexion, foot resting on the side of the doorframe.
- Keep your leg straight.
- Grab the the door frame with your arms and slowly draw your stomach toward the door frame.
- Feel the stretch in your calf; this is a slow stretch. Can you feel the increased tension in your calf? You could fatigue this reflex if you stretched long enough. If you did, then the muscle would be difficult to activate. This is one of the reasons stretching seems to inhibit performance.
- Now for an added stretch, dorsiflex your toes and try to bring your foot upward. Did you notice how you can get more stretch your calf and increased length? This is reciprocal inhibition at work!
There you have it, one neurological tool of many to give you increased length.The next time you are statically stretching, take advantage of these reflexes to make it more effective.
The Gait Guys. Teaching you more about anatomy, physiology, and neurology with each and every post.