By Anthony Kelley
The importance of stretching as a component of overall well being for what ever reasons has always seemed to be under emphasized, but the benefits of stretching are many. Stretching can improve preparation for athletic activity, can facilitate the removal of metabolic waste products, can reduce postural tightness due to aging, can enhance athletic performance, as well as many other benefits.
In my practice as a massage therapist, my clients have had a great deal of success in their recovery of various musculoskeletal conditions by incorporating stretching into their therapeutic sessions. This success is attributed due in a large degree to the Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) technique. Individuals who suffer in pain of all kinds related to soft tissues irregularities and muscular dysfunctions will find in many cases, that this particular type of treatment in conjuction with strengthening exercises often offers hope, beyond the conventional types of therapy.
The technique of AIS stretching developed by, registered kinesiotherapist and licensed massage therapist Aaron L Mattes tends to fly in the face of the traditional static stretching methods and theories of holding the stretch for 10, 20, 30, or even up to 60 seconds. It has been found through extensive research that these stretches are not only are not as effective, but in some cases they are counterproductive. The longer you hold a stretch, the more likely you will be inclined to turn on what is referred to as the stretch reflex: this means that the muscle actually tightens, and this is something that you are looking to avoid.
Arguments persist that the static method of stretching has been very successful over the years, but it has been my conclusion, as I have discovered utilizing the Mattes method, that any degree of success actually comes from the first few seconds of the stretch.
Even those who practice yoga, Pilates and other types of flexibility programs will find that they too can benefit from AIS. AIS was developed as a result of many years of in depth scientific research, it very specifically identifies, isolates and targets the muscle or associated muscle groups that need to be stretched, as well as their paired opposites. Based on muscle physiology the origins, insertions and actions the muscle, is also how AIS allows for maximal flexibility in the minimal time.
What also tends to separate AIS from other traditional methods of stretching is that the hold is only two seconds and no greater than five seconds, with the active participation of the person you are working with. This is all done while using minimum force when assisting in the stretch. The muscle is then relaxed for about one or two seconds before you enter back into the stretch for increased blood flow and the important removal of waste products. This is done in repetitions and sets.
When AIS is done correctly, the results can be astonishing. In some instances the results are almost immediate and in some, depending on the condition or injury, the results may take a little longer. For example, recovery from a condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome can be greatly enhanced through AIS techniques. Since Carpal tunnel syndrome is the result of the entrapped median nerve due to tight muscles of the neck, pectoralis, arm, forearm, wrist and hands.
The AIS method provides a much less radical approach of elongating the muscle fibers compared to other types of stretching that may cause the muscle to tighten up and even build up scar tissue. AIS allows for the fascia ( a thin layer of tissue surrounding the muscle ), along with the muscles to be lengthened and it frees up the constricted nerves as well as facilitates much needed blood flow to the area which can reduce inflammation caused by eschemia. In conditions such as sciatica, back pain, herniated discs, migraine headaches, knee problems, plantar fasciitis, AIS could be a viable alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs, surgery, or other medical procedures.
AIS is not only a treatment for various maladies but should also be used as an preventative measure. Whether you live an active lifestyle or a sedentary lifestyle, your type of work play can contribute to repetitive motion injury that can be avoided through regular stretching and strengthening exercises.
Below are some reasons why flexibility training is particularly important and different types and terms of stretches.
To increase complete range of motion around a joint.
To Relieve Muscle Soreness.
To assist in decreasing unnecessary neuromuscular tension.
To promote general body relaxation.
To reduce emotional stress.
To relieve muscle - joint stiffness associated with the aging process.
Types Of Stretches
Active Isolated Stretching : The AIS method employs the contracting muscles opposite to the muscles that are being lengthened as the movement force (agonist contracts, antagonists relaxes.)
Static Stretching: Stretching the muscles out gently, as far as possible. Staying in that position as long as you can for 10 to 30 seconds
PNF(Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) Stretching: Active PNF employs motion that is extended as far as possible through active muscle work for six seconds. This is followed by a maximum isometric muscle tightening of the counteracting muscle.
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