Stretches may be included as part of a therapy program, and/or recommended to be done at home or part of your everyday exercise regime.
The benefits of stretching include:
- Increased flexibility and joint range of motion: Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Flexibility tends to diminish as you get older, but you can regain and maintain it.
- Improved circulation: Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Blood flowing to your muscles brings nourishment and gets rid of waste by products in the muscle tissue. Improved circulation can help shorten your recovery time if you’ve had any muscle injuries.
- Better posture: Frequent stretching can help keep your muscles from getting tight, allowing you to maintain proper posture. Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at a minimum.
- Stress Relief: Stretching relaxes tight, tense muscles that often accompany stress.
- Enhanced coordination: Maintaining the full range of motion through your joints keeps you in better balance. Coordination and balance will help keep you mobile and less prone to injury from falls, especially as you get older.
Proper Stretching Technique
It is essential to practice proper stretching techniques. Doing so will allow you to avoid any unnecessary injury. Tips for proper stretching include:
- Warm up first: Stretching muscles when they’re cold increases your risk of pulled muscles. Warm up by walking, or do a favourite exercise at low intensity for 5 to 10 minutes.
- There is quite a lot of variation in research, but a good guide is to hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds: It takes time to lengthen tissues and improve range of motion. You can repeat a stretch between 2 to 5 times throughout the day.
- Don’t bounce: Bouncing as you stretch can cause small tears (microtears) in the muscle, and cause muscle strain.
- Focus on a pain-free stretch: If you feel pain as you stretch, you’ve gone too far. Back off to the point where you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
- Relax and breathe freely: Don’t hold your breath while you’re stretching.
- Stretch both sides if possible: Make sure your joint range of motion is as equal as possible on each side of your body
- Stretch after activity: Stretch only after you are warm or have finished your exercise.
Who Should Avoid Stretching?
Although the benefits of stretching are many, it is not for everyone. Conditions in which stretching should be avoided include:
- Acute muscle strain: People who have suffered an acute muscle strain should avoid placing further stress on the muscle through stretching activities. The injured muscle should be given time to rest. Stretching muscle fibers in the acute period can result in further injury.
- Fractured Bones: After breaking a bone, the fracture needs time to heal. Stretching muscles that surround this injured area can place stress on the bone and prevent it from healing as well as further displace the break. Stretching a joint that surrounds a broken bone should never be done until cleared by your physician.
- Joint Sprains: When you sprain your joint, you overstretch the ligaments that help stabilize the bones that form the joint. For this reason stretching early after a joint sprain should be avoided. As with fractures, these structures need time to heal and stretching too early in the injury will delay this process.
Stretching regularly can help your body and joints move more freely, allowing you to enjoy full functional mobility. Check in with your physical therapist here at Tweed Coast Chiropractic to find out which stretches are best for you to do.