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Stretching Pros and Cons

Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia reviewed the world's literature and concluded that stretching does not prevent muscle soreness that follows vigorous exercise (1). Athletes train by taking a hard workout, feeling sore the next day, and then taking easy workouts for as many days as it takes for the soreness to go away. Since stretching does not reduce muscle soreness, it will not help you to recover faster from hard exercise. The best way to recover from exhausting competition is to move with little pressure on muscles, such as cycling on a stationary bicycle (2).

Stretching does not prevent injuries (3). Muscles and tendons tear when the force applied to them is greater than their inherent strength. Anything that makes a muscle stronger helps to prevent injuries, but stretching does not make muscles stronger or faster.

Even though most high school and college coaches have their athletes stretch before games or races (4), you should not stretch before competition because it decreases muscle strength (5) and impairs your ability to run fast (6).

However, stretching can make you a better athlete. Muscles attach to bones by long fibrous bands called tendons. Stretching lengthens tendons, and the longer the tendon, the greater the force a muscle can exert on a joint (7). So stretching a tendon to make it longer allows an athlete to exert more force around a joint to help him jump higher, run faster, lift heavier or throw further (8).

Also see Stretching Doesn't Deliver

1-Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4;
2-American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, June 2007;
3-Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, March 2005;
4-Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, May 2006;
5-Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, April 2006;
6-Sports Science, May 2005;
7-Journal of Sports Science, February 2006;
8-The American Journal of Sports Medicine, February 2006.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: What causes shingles?

Shingles (herpes zoster) is chicken pox the second time around. It affects one of six Americans. Almost everyone has had chicken pox, unless you have received the vaccine. You never get rid of the virus; it stays forever in your nerves. When your immunity is not functioning properly, the virus can damage a nerve to cause horrible pain, loss of muscle control or other abnormal nerve sensations, usually in one specific nerve. You may have pain for weeks and then develop blisters on your skin. A recent study shows that a common cause of shingles is impaired immunity from diabetes (Indian Journal of Dermatology, July- September 2008). This suggests that anyone with shingles, or who has had shingles in the past, should be checked for diabetes using a blood test called HBA1C.

If you ever suspect that you have shingles, check with your doctor immediately. Prompt treatment can prevent the pain from becoming permanent. More on treatment of shingles


Dear Dr. Mirkin: Since your recent report on BPA, I'm wondering if I should avoid using plastic water bottles altogether?

Whether plastic bottles are safe or not is highly controversial. Some of these plastics do contain phthalates or bisphenol, which are poisons, but nobody knows how much of these substances it takes to harm you. The manufacturers say that the amount leeched from bottles is insignificant. I continue to drink from single-use plastic bottles and eat food that has been packaged in plastic, but I do not freeze, heat or re-use them. Heating or freezing and thawing increase the amount of chemicals that leech from the bottles into the food or liquid. I also recommend that you check the bottoms of your microwave cookware and re-usable water bottles and discard any that have the numbers one or seven.


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Golden Autumn Soup

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June 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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