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Gary Craig EFT



"The Right Stretch"
Copyright © 2002 by the Asbury Park Press
Published 7/20/02
THOMAS P. COSTELLO/Staff Photographer

Practically everyone who engages in exercise these days, whether it's running, aerobics or competitive sport, understands the benefits of stretching before a workout. Stretching the muscles, the theory goes, improves flexibility, enhances performance and reduces the chance of injury.

Medical massage therapist Roseanna Ellis, Long Branch , works with a client, Joseph LaMarca, Freehold Township , on a stretching method called Active Isolated Stretching. The method promotes a more gentle stretching protocol and focuses on one muscle at a time. But are common stretching techniques practiced by the majority of recreational athletes doing them more harm than good? "Prolonged, incorrect stretching can cause micro-tearing of a muscle," Roseanna Ellis, a physical therapist assistant and medical massage therapist from Long Branch , says. "It's a tug-of-war approach that will ultimately result in injury and will limit the range of motion for that muscle."

Roseanna Ellis - LMT, CST, CMLD, AIS Trainer

Ellis, who specializes in a stretching method called Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), said the risk inherent in standard stretching techniques springs from the length of time the stretches are held. Muscles, she says, have a built-in resistance to prolonged stretching and will attempt to recoil if stretched too far for too long. This reaction, which occurs around 3 seconds into a stretch, she says, is the body's way of preventing injury to the muscle. But if this resistance is ignored and the muscle continues to be stretched into this "red zone"—and most stretches last much longer than 3 seconds—fibers can tear, causing bleeding, inflammation and the formation of scar tissue. And perhaps worse for athletes, the body will remember these stretching injuries long after the actual stretch and, when asked to perform during exercise or competition, mount a sort of defense that prevents the muscle from stretching into that "red zone" again.

"The body has rules," Ellis says, "and when we violate the rules, we have injury." The AIS method practiced by Ellis and developed by kinesiologist Aaron Mattes promotes a more gentle stretching protocol and focuses on one muscle at a time. It uses a therapist like Ellis to stretch the target muscle while the client contracts the opposing muscle, which allows the target muscle to relax. When that target muscle relaxes, "That's when we (therapists) sneak in and get that extra stretch," Ellis said, emphasizing that no stretch lasts more than 2 seconds. "We get in and get out before the body realizes what happens." She said the AIS approach, which initially is performed by a trainer like Ellis and can later be done alone with the assistance of a rope, results in a radical improvement in flexibility for most clients.

Body work is not a luxury, but a necessity

Ted Brantly of Asbury Park , a lifelong who, at 52, contends that "everything in my body is shot," agrees. He's undergone two sessions of AIS will Ellis and says the results are amazing. "For the past 10 years, I've been very inactive," Brantly, a building contractor said. "My knees are gone; I can't run without pain. I've tried to stay in shape by watching my diet and swimming, but I'm more or less a physically retired person who lost all my flexibility."

A few months ago, he had his first session Ellis and said "she immediately doubled my flexibility. I felt it right away just running down stairs and moving around." After a second session, Brantly was given exercises to perform at home. "With my back problem, I always had this routine getting out of bed," Brantly said. "I would have to wiggle my back a little, swing my legs over the side of the bed and then slowly sit up. Then I would lean over and stretch my back." Now, Brantly says, he performs some of the AIS stretches in bed before getting up, and has little trouble with his back and flexibility. "And I don't come home with an aching back at the end of the day, either," he said.

Another of Ellis' clients, Don Norkus of Middletown , likes to think of his monthly AIS stretching session as a deposit in his preventive medicine bank. "I had no specific problems when I started with Roseanna about a year ago," Norkus said. "I'm very active—tennis, running, skiing, lifting weights. And I had always stretched. But (AIS) has definitely helped with my flexibility and range of motion. I could feel it after the first session." Norkus, 52, supplements his monthly stretching

session with Ellis with periodic rope workouts at home, which can be done alone. "I tore a rotator cuff skiing in April," he said. "After the surgery, I underwent therapy and the physical therapist was amazed at my range of motion. I've got to believe the stretching had something to do with it."

Ellis, who works from her office in Long Branch as well as home visits suggests that an initial 2-hour AIS session will reap benefits for at least two weeks. The cost for a 2-hour session is $130 and 1-hour follow-up treatments are $65. "Some people come once or twice and reach full range of motion," she said, "so there's no reason to see me again." Mattes, the therapist who developed the method, counts among his clients members of Major League Baseball teams, U.S. Olympians, and professional golfers and tennis players. "It also helps promote better circulation and oxygenation" of muscles, Ellis said of the AIS method. "After all, stretching shouldn't cause trauma." To learn more about Active Isolated Stretching, you can check out the Web-site or call Roseanna Ellis at (732) 483-1199 or 732-500-4502. Her e-mail address is wellagain@hotmail.com



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