Stretch Into Spring

by Marc Margiotta, DN, DAAPM


With warm weather fast approaching, we are all starting to feel the itch to get outside. And for many of us, exercise plays a key role in our outdoor activities-volleyball at the lakefront, jogging through neighborhood parks, or biking to work.


But remember: Athletic activity can lead to an increased risk for muscle and tendon injury. You don't want to jump into activities too quickly, with too much intensity or before your body is ready. This happens often in the spring, as people are ready to shake off winter as fast as possible.

Stretching is a good step for injury prevention. It helps improve flexibility and maintain the muscle-body balance. Unfortunately, competitive and recreational athletes commonly neglect stretching-no matter the season.

If you choose to stretch, keep in mind that these exercises are safest and most effective only if performed properly and timed correctly. I typically recommend a warm up before exercise consisting of very light activity.

This light activity will increase the temperature of the blood by 1-3 degrees, which increases muscle elasticity by 20-30%. The increased elasticity enhances flexibility, which theoretically reduces the risk of muscles tearing under tension.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a warm-up of easy activity (running in place, walking briskly on a treadmill) for 5 minutes preceding stretching a muscle. You could warm up without stretching if you don't have time for both, but it's not ideal due to additional benefits from stretching. Just remember: A warmer muscle is more flexible than a cold one.

Not only does a warmer muscle have increased flexibility, its length is directly proportional to the power that muscle can produce. As you stretch, you should feel mild discomfort only. If you're feel strong discomfort or pain, muscle and/or tendon damage may be occurring.

Research shows the static method as the most effective form of stretching. This technique involves slowly stretching a muscle group to a lengthened position and holding the position for 30-45 seconds with 3-4 repetitions per stretch. For the average person who participates in regular physical activity, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends static stretching 2-3 times per week.

Overall, a consistent and comprehensive stretching regimen combined with an adequate warm-up period can increase flexibility and muscular force, and reduce injury risk. And that's our goal-to keep you injury free so you can enjoy the warm days ahead.


To schedule an appointment with Marc Margiotta, call (312) 276-1212.


Join us on May 15, 2014 as Marc presents on upper back and neck pain caused by Computer Related Neck Syndrome.

Integrative medicine is about seeing every person fully – recognizing that good healthcare attends to and nurtures body, mind, and spirit.