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Stretching - Is it important?

Posted by Eqphysio on 10 May 2019
Stretching - Is it important?

Stretching is a common activity used by athletes, older adults, rehabilitation patients and anyone participating in a fitness program.

Some might think stretching is a waste of time or an inconvenience, however it is very important and should be incorporated into our normal activities at some level.

It is not enough to build muscle and become aerobically fit; we need to consider flexibility as well. Human movement is dependent on the amount of range of motion (ROM) in our joints.

Stretching protects our mobility and independence. It keeps the muscles flexible, strong and healthy, and we need to be flexible to maintain joint ROM. Without flexibility our muscles can shorten and become tight. This can increase the risk for developing joint pain, strains and/or muscle damage.

 

Benefits of Stretching:

  • Increased flexibility and joint range of motion- flexible muscles can improve ability to perform tasks such as lifting, bending to tie shoes or hurrying to catch a bus. Flexibility tends to diminish with age, but you can regain and maintain it.

  • Enable muscles to work most effectively- having the appropriate ROM

  • Athletic performance- this will be enhanced with healthy, flexible muscles and full joint ROM

  • Reduce your risk of injury by decreasing risk of strains and tears

  • Improved Circulation: Stretching increases blood flow to muscles and hence reduces recovery time if you've had a muscle injury.

  • Better Posture: Frequent stretching can help prevent muscles from tightening, allowing you to maintain good posture.

  • Stress Relief: Stretching relaxes tight, tense muscles that often accompany stress.

  • Falls prevention: Healthy muscles may improve a person's balance and thus help to avoid falls.

 

Where to start:

Despite having a body full of muscles, we don't have to stretch every muscle. The areas critical to mobility are in the lower extremities e.g. calves, hamstrings, hip flexors and quadriceps in the front of the thigh. Stretching of the shoulders, neck and lower back are beneficial for maintaining good posture.

There is a cumulative effect of stretching, so aim to stretch at least 3-4 times per week if it can't be done daily. Results are seen over time and there needs to be commitment to the process. It takes time for muscles to tighten and hence it will take time for them to become flexible.

 

Stretching Safely:

  • Don't consider stretching as a warm-up. An ideal pre-exercise stretching program includes a general warm up, such as 5 minute jog, until you feel warmth in the muscles. Light stretching after the warm up followed by a more thorough stretching regime after the workout.

  • Strive for symmetry: focus on having equal flexibility ie. left and right

  • Focus on major muscle groups such as calves, thighs, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders.

  • Don't bounce: stretch in a smooth movement. Bouncing can cause microtears in the muscle.

  • Hold your stretch: breathe normally and hold static stretch for at least 30 secsonds.

  • Don't aim for pain: you should feel a gentle stretch or tension but not pain.

  • Make stretches sport specific.

  • Keep up with your stretching: it is an on-going commitment and should become a habit to maintain the benefits.

  • Bring movement in stretches: such as yoga and tai chi. These types of exercises can also reduce falls in seniors.

  • Stretching doesn't mean you can't get injured, it will not prevent an overuse injury.


Types of Stretches:

Static Stretching - is a stationary stretch, where you will hold a stretch for a certain duration without moving. This is an intense stretch as it isolates muscle groups. This type of stretch however, may have negatives results on an athlete's performance within the categories of power and strength. Ideal time for static stretching is after exercise as this helps restore muscles back to their resting length.

                                                                                                                                       

Dynamic Stretchingis a movement based stretch aimed on increasing blood flow throughout the body while loosening up the muscle fibres. This involves moving a limb through its full ROM to the end range several times. This type of stretching has shown better results on athletic performance of power and speed, when compared with static stretch. An active dynamic warm-up is recommended before exercise rather than static stretching.

                                                                                                                                     

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching - involves the muscle being passively stretched, then the muscle is contracted, then further stretched.

                                                                                                                                       

                 

Stretching and Physiotherapists:

Stretching is used as a corrective, preventative and recovery strategy.
Physiotherapists can give assistance and advice on stretching techniques and muscle length assessment. They will be able to assess your muscle strength and length and tailor a stretch program to fit your needs. PNF, Dynamic and Static stretching are all techniques that physiotherapists use in rehabilitation and recovery following injury or surgery. A physiotherapist can advise on specific stretching for target muscles and assist you to reach your flexibility goals.

                                                                                                                                            

 

If you would like to know more about stretching or would like advice with your stretching program, please contact us on (02) 9553 8145 to book an appointment.

Phone: 9553 8145

Website: www.eqphysio.com.au

Or if you're in the area, drop by and have a chat with us. We're located at 1/45 Montgomery St Kogarah NSW 2217.

 

Author: Eqphysio
Tags: Musculoskeletal Conditions

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