WHY STRETCHING FEELS SO GOOD

Nancy A. Shadick, MD, MPH

Rheumatologist and Director of Translational Research Development in the Division of Rheumatology at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital

Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Dr Shadick is the founder of the BRASS Study one of the longest running and largest single center cohort studies of Rheumatoid Arthritis patients.

Do you ever wonder why we feel so good after we stretch? Why is it that we, and many animals will spontaneously stretch after waking or spending time in a still position?

Investigators at my institution at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital have recently explained this phenomenon with the discovery of mediators called “resolvins”. Scientists had traditionally believed that the resolution of inflammation was a passive process; driven by declining levels of inflammatory proteins in the body from passive blood flow or movement. But in the last ten years, BWH investigators have identified new anti-inflammatory proteins that are actively secreted to reduce inflammation and return our immune cells and connective tissue to a non-inflammatory state. Interestingly, these “resolvins” are generated from omega 3 fatty acids.

In a recent study, Dr. Helene Langevin, Director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine explained how stretching impacts inflammation resolution in connective tissue. Stretching was associated with reduced inflammation and white blood cell counts as well as increased resolvin levels in non- inflamed connective tissues.

CONNECTIVE TISSUE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

Her results demonstrated how the musculoskeletal mechanics can directly impact our immune systems and, why stretching and yoga feels good and can be so therapeutic!

Ref: Berrueta, L., Muskaj, I., Olenich, S., Butler, T., Badger, G. J., Colas, R. A., Spite, M., Serhan, C. N. and Langevin, H. M. (2016), Stretching Impacts Inflammation Resolution in Connective Tissue. J. Cell. Physiol., 231: 1621–1627. doi:10.1002/jcp.25263