Are You Stretching?
Stretching is the deliberate lengthening of muscles in order to increase muscle flexibility and joint range of motion. Stretching activities are an important part of any one’s daily life; stretches are not just for athletes or rehabilitation. They help warm the body up prior to activity thus decreasing the risk of injury as well as muscle soreness. The benefits of stretching are many and have been proven through various studies over time. Stretching benefits people of all ages, and is intended for the young as well as the elderly population. According to the Mayo Clinic, the top five benefits of stretching include:
Increased flexibility and joint range of motion:
Flexible muscles can improve your daily performance. Tasks such as lifting packages, bending to tie your shoes or hurrying to catch a bus become easier and less tiring. Flexibility tends to diminish as you get older, but you can regain and maintain it.
Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles. Blood flowing to your muscles brings nourishment and gets rid of waste byproducts in the muscle tissue. Improved circulation can help shorten your recovery time, if you’ve had any muscle injuries.
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.
Stretching relaxes tight, tense muscles that often accompany stress.
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.
Stretching regularly can help your body and joints move freely, allowing you to enjoy full functional mobility. If your not sure which stretches you should be doing or if your doing them properly, you should check with a professional before continuing. There are occasions when stretching should not be performed; if you meet any of the following criteria you should wait for medical clearance before continuing a stretching regime.
Who Should Avoid Stretching?
Acute Muscle Strains
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.
After breaking a bone the fracture site 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.
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.
Page, P. Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. international Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2012: Feb 7(1); 109-119.
American Journal of Sports Medicine, 1999, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 173-176
American Family Physician