Ask the Doctor: Flexibility Can Be a Stretch
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 60 years old and continue to play basketball twice a week.
I play through a number of nagging pains and ailments.
One problem I have never had is Achilles’ tendinopathy.
I attribute this to stretching after I warm up and after I am through playing.
If you agree, pass this tip on to others.
ANSWER: I’ll get to your question, but let me take your letter as an opportunity to say something about stretching and flexibility.
Flexibility is the degree of movement a joint can make.
Some people are born with limited joint movement, while others have extreme, even pathological joint looseness.
Sporting activities that require more than average flexibility are pitching a baseball, gymnastics, figure skating and dancing.
Dancing is a sport that requires great athleticism, strength and flexibility.
The joint itself determines how great its range of motion is, but so do the tendons, muscles and ligaments that surround the joint.
Those structures can be stretched.
The best way to increase joint flexibility is through static stretching.
Move the arm, leg or whatever as far as comfortably possible, and hold that stretched position for 15 to 30 seconds.
Don’t bounce your way into a stretch.
That kind of stretching - ballistic stretching - can injure joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles.
Older people have a vested interest in keeping themselves flexible.
When they lose flexibility, they cannot put on shoes, tie shoelaces or dress themselves.
Besides improving performance, stretching is said to prevent injuries.
If joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles are too tight, they suffer from sprains (ligament and tendon tears) and strains (muscle tears).
Intuitively, stretching ought to prevent such injuries.
Perhaps your stretching has preserved your Achilles’ tendon. I buy that claim.
However, I have to confess that evidence supporting injury prevention through stretching is not overwhelming.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.