Stretching for Performance and Injury Prevention

There have been a lot of questions about the benefits of stretching particularly of concern to performance enhancement and injury prevention for human and animal athletes alike.

The general consensus has been that stretching provides increased range of motion and injury prevention and that all stretching was equal and beneficial to performance.

Good warm -ups and stretches before an activity are for everyone.

Good warm -ups and stretches before an activity are for everyone.

More recently though researchers have placed the act of stretching under scrutiny, more particularly the type of stretches we implement.

Static stretching is deep, and slow, it usually involves a singular motion and is held in place for ten seconds or more, sometimes up to 30 seconds.

Dynamic stretches are repetitive and challenging motions which help the targeted muscle group to have increased range of motion with each repetition

Most recent studies found that when athletes performed static stretches performance suffered. It caused the nervous system to tighten the muscles that were stretched which was actually counter intuitive.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Guide to Program Design reports that “there is a growing body of research evidence which indicates that pre-event static stretching may actually have a negative effect on force production, power performance, strength endurance, reaction time, and running speed”.

An article by Gretchen Reynolds from the New York Times (2011) cites a study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas which illustrated that “athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all.” She reported that “this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent” and “stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements”.

Malachy McHugh , the director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City states that “the straining muscle becomes less responsive and stays weakened for up to 30 minutes after stretching, which is not how an athlete wants to begin a workout.(To Stretch or Not to Stretch, G. Reynolds, The NewYork Times, 2011)

The right type of stretches can make all the difference in performance and injury prevention.

The right type of stretches can make all the difference in performance and injury prevention.

Kay and Blazevich (2012) also concluded after a peer review analysis of over 4000 articles “the detrimental effects of stretching are mainly limited to static stretching of longer durations (≥ 60 s). Shorter durations of stretch (<60 s) can be performed in a pre-exercise routine without compromising maximal muscle performance.

So, with all of this food for thought should we eliminate static stretching from our athletic programs all together? Definitely not.

Dynamic stretching and a good warm ups are paramount to successful training and maintenance. Dynamic stretches help us to prepare the body for light work, it prepares the body and the nervous system for higher intensity work and also safeguards us from over stretching. Recommendations still remain that “most athletes should perform some form of static stretching” but should be reserved for “cool-downs or as part of a separate training session”. (NSCA's Guide to Program Design, 2018).

The take home here is that not all stretches are created equal, it is extremely important to consider what type of event or work we are preparing for and to take into account what types of movements will be expected. Will my animal require improved proprioception and flexibility or do they require quicker response times and agility? Wether it be a rigorous mountain hike with Fido or a weekend rodeo with our trusty steed stretching is an easy addition to our routine that can improve their day to day well being and performance.

As an RVT, your pets are my passion!

This is me working in small animal practice performing a Comprehensive Oral Health assessment and Treatment.

This is me working in small animal practice performing a Comprehensive Oral Health assessment and Treatment.

My name is Lisa Vettoretti, I have been an RVT since 2009 working with both small and large animals. Throughout my career I have been passionate about furthering my skills as well as continually searching for ways to use my experience and education to help clients better help their pets. 

I started my education in hands on bodywork in 2015 when I received my initial certification in Canine and Equine Massage. This training and certification was completed with hours of intense theory and 60 + hours of hands on instruction under the supervision of  a Registered Massage Therapist. This training greatly complimented my diploma from the University of Guelph Veterinary Technology Program . I was taught the tools, techniques and applications of bodywork that can be easily integrated along with my formal education of anatomy, traditional medicine and treatment plans.

When I discovered massage I realized THIS, was the hands on approach to wellness and recovery I had been searching for. Bodywork was a way that I could positively impact the lives of animals and give a gift to pet owners that would help them better help their pets. I could now help pets through daily discomfort, the athlete in recovery and even pets in palliative care. I am passionate about wellness and recovery. We can always do more to improve the quality of life of our pets. I have since been investing much of my time into learning as much as I can about different modalities of bodywork as well as the human-animal connection that makes them so special.

I feel that being a Registered Veterinary Technician is important in this journey. It is a credential given to one who has obtained a diploma in veterinary technology from an accredited college, has passed the Veterinary Technician National Examination and then registered with the Ontario Association of Veterinary Technicians. Registered Veterinary Technicians are required to maintain good standing within the OAVT by staying up to date on education and training standards. 

Registered Veterinary Technicians are required to uphold standards of practice and ethics in any service or treatment they provide. We are required to work closely with veterinarians to ensure that any treatments are prescribed and therefore appropriate for the patient. It allows me to provide optimum care for my patients.

When seeking integrative treatments such as massage, laser or pulsed electro magnetic therapy for example I believe it is important to have confidence that the practitioner holds a concrete base of knowledge as well as a responsibility to uphold ethics in patient care and scope of practice. 

Registered Veterinary Technicians like myself are making their way out of hospitals and  into other sectors of veterinary medicine such as in Rehabilitative and Integrative Therapies. It is an amazing way for us to apply our skills and education to help our clients better help our pets. It allows us to foster the human animal bonds that we hold so dear. 

My passion for animal wellness has grown throughout my career as an RVT and through my education in massage therapy and body work. It has allowed me to truly be a part of recovery and wellness in a more meaningful way. Integrative therapies like massage are an amazing way to connect with animals that are  finding their way to wellness. I look forward to the journey and lifelong education that comes along with the practice of bodywork and I am more than excited to become a collaborative part of the well-being of our most cherished animal friends.