The importance of stretching

If you are like most of us you probably feel like you don’t stretch enough and need to do more. Hopefully, this article encourages you to do a bit more stretching!

Stretching increases the body’s range of motion which helps decrease the chance of injuries to joints and muscles. As we age we tend to move and stretch our bodies less frequently and in a reduced variety of movements. This can build up stiffness that can ultimately affect you negatively. Eventually, we might find difficulty as the body becomes more tense and starts to ache. This can interrupt day-to-day activity or even how we sleep.

Stiffness in the body can cause a ripple effect that leads to injuries in other parts of the body. For example, if you don’t stretch your hip flexors this can make you more prone to a knee injury. Also, this can create pulling on joints and muscles that can lead to injuries that can take a long time to correct.

Stretching is a form of physical exercise in which a specific muscle or tendon is deliberately flexed or stretched in order to improve the muscle’s felt elasticity and achieve comfortable muscle tone.

Taking as little as 10 minutes out of your day can change the body’s reaction and improve flexibility, leading to many more benefits. This increases blood flow, improves flexibility and releases levels of stress.

When we stretch and push our muscles to move into a position that for some, might be uncomfortable, it helps the tissue talk to your body and push a ‘reset’ button. There are receptors in our muscles designed specifically to respond to stretching. Fittingly, they are called stretch receptors. When we push the muscles to stretch and ‘feel the burn’, those receptors are triggered to help the body remember to keep that length instead of reverting back to where they were before the stretch. This communication helps our body lengthen and stay stretched out, so we can move better and more efficiently.

When we create blood flow, flexibility comes along with it. Whether in the muscle or the joint, something is going to be moving better for us, and be more willing to move when we ask it to. There are other factors involved with this, for sure, but stretching is a simple way to help our body do the things we want it to and make those things easier for us to maintain.

How to Stretch Effectively:

Be gentle and slow with movements
Whatever muscle is being ‘worked’ ensure you are taking it slowly into a position where you feel a gentle pull but no pain.

Hold the stretch for at least 20 seconds
By holding the position you allow the body and mind to release and improve blood flow. The longer you hold the stretch the more comfortable you should feel. The feeling of the muscle elongating is a critical part of stretching. If the stretch does not ease, you must adjust and approach the position more gently.

If you would like more information on how you can improve your range of movement with stretching call us at back to health physiotherapy to book a consultation