Stretching – Good or Bad?

stretching clip artStretching—Good or Bad?

In a previous blog, I discussed tender points.  In a nut shell, they are areas in the body that represent a deeper more vital structure with restrictions from an injury. The body recruits muscles and shortens areas to protect organs and vessels when there is an injury or even a threat of injury. If these restrictions get stuck, the body is left in a shortened painful position.

Stretching these areas will cause the body to react as if there is a threat of further injury and therefore result in more shortening and pain. This can also happens when pushing through the pain to force strengthening.

When tender points exist in an area, the best treatment is to shorten the corresponding structure. These areas may be the ligaments and connective tissue around an organ, the nerves, or the blood vessels, or any combination of these.

Stretching helps after the restrictions are released although it’s not always necessary. Most of the time, range of motion returns naturally and automatically when the muscle gets the message to stop guarding—holding itself tight in protection mode.

Some people are genetically prone to tightness. Stretching helps them prevent injury, but even in these cases, the restrictions should be released first.

Another important time to stretch is during strenuous exercises. A good warm up is important since muscles do not respond as well to stretching when they are cold. Brisk walking for 10 minutes prior to stretching will help achieve better results. But , again, only if the muscles are under normal tension and don’t have any restrictions.

The flexibility in our body should be symmetrical. Both sides should rotate, flex, and bend the same. There should not be pain at the end of the range and it should never feel like a hard stop, but more like a soft end that could be stretched further with the proper technique.

When stretching, it is important to hold the stretch static and not bounce. About 20 to 30 seconds will get the best results. Hold the stretch at a comfortable place at the end of range, being careful not to force it further and create pain.

Remember, if any tissues feel threatened, the automatic response of the body is to tighten and protect the area. This completely defeats the purpose of stretching. Above all, listen to the body, it is truly wise. It will tell you when something is wrong.

Christine Wood About Christine Wood

Christine Wood, PT, DPT lives in Augusta County in the heart of Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley with her husband and children. With over 20 years of experience as a Physical Therapist, her hands have brought healing and pain relief to thousands of clients.