Stretching

Improves mobility and provides balance and symmetry to the muscles of the body.

Stretching

Benefits of stretching

Excessive tightness or restrictions in joints and tissues negatively affect posture, range of motion, and body movement fluidity. Stiff and rigid joints also interfere with coordination reflexes, leading to disjointed movements. Achieving and maintaining appropriate flexibility is valuable for managing injuries and improving joint and muscle health. Stretching is also thought to increase tendon resiliency, helping prevent injuries later in life.

Muscle & Fascia (Myofascial system)

When discussing stretching, it's helpful to understand the two different yet interconnected tissues that are affected. Muscles and fascia are structurally very different. However, they work collectively to hold our bodies together and allow us to move. 

Muscles are contractile tissues responsible for movement. Fascia is the binding material that holds muscles in place. Without fascia, muscles would not have structure to bind to, and movements would not be possible.

Both muscles and fascia are impacted during stretching. However, they are affected differently depending on the stretch used and how long it's held. Most sustained static (holding) stretches primarily influence and lengthen the fascia. Muscle energy techniques and post-isometric relaxations are types of stretches more specific for muscles. Finally, stretches for nerves are called neurodynamics. 

What muscles are important to stretch?

When deciding where to stretch, it's critical to know that tight muscles are not always responsible for pain. In some instances, the pain points are too flexible, making it essential to discover the areas of actual tightness. Sometimes the tightness is on the other side or above or below the site of pain. Finding and correcting the tightness improves posture and overall mobility, which reduces pain in other injured areas. A thorough exam with a chiropractor can help you find the best places to stretch.

Flexibility is highly variable. People who are already incredibly flexible may not benefit from stretching as much as people who have a natural disposition to being stiff and tight.

How long should I hold a stretch?

Almost all length gains are made within the first minute of holding a stretch in a particular muscle group. Three sets of twenty-second holds are usually all that is necessary to stretch a specific group of muscles. More important than how long you hold a stretch is how frequently you perform the stretches.

How often should I stretch?

We've already seen that most stretching benefits happen within a minute. The downside is that fascia settles back to its original length very quickly. The key to increasing mobility is to stretch frequently.

Focus on the most critical areas you need mobility and stretch for about one minute. However, make sure that you repeat that stretch every couple of hours.

Once mobility is gained, stretching daily for one minute/region can be sufficient. Keep in mind that stretching can be highly variable depending on age, genetics, and goals.

How flexible am I supposed to be?

Maintaining a certain degree of flexibility is incredibly healthy for the body's joints. However, too much flexibility is not better.

Some research supports that hypermobility (being too flexible) is a more significant predictor of pain than being too tight. In sports performance, the goal is to be flexible enough to perform necessary movements, but not more flexible than that. The idea is that a certain degree of tension in the fascia allows it to function like a rubberband. An adequate amount of natural stiffness allows more elasticity, allowing for an increase in powerful movements.

Can you stretch too much?

Yes, especially if stretching areas are already too loose or injured. When injured tendons are stretched too much, there is sometimes an increase in inflammation and degeneration. Additionally, stretching hypermobile areas reduces coordination and can increase muscle spasms.

Should I stretch before I work out?

A dynamic warm is more critical than static stretching for injury prevention before athletics. It used to be thought that more flexible muscles were less likely to get strained during sports. It's now known that muscle fibers have an optimal length for performance. A warm-up that gets the heart pumping and the joints mobile is the most beneficial for protecting from injuries.

That said, personalized stretches addressing tight regions specific to each person can be necessary for sports performance and minimizing risks of injury. For example, if the front of one shoulder is known to be restricted, focusing on that after a warm-up will be beneficial. 

Different types of stretching

There are different styles of stretching, each with distinct mechanisms on how they work. Static stretching is thought to address the fascia (connective tissue) more than the muscles. However, the following stretches can be more focused on nerves and muscles:

Neurodynamics (Nerve mobilizations)

Neurodynamics, also called nerve flossing and nerve mobilization, is a type of stretch specific to nerves. This technique is helpful for pinched nerves and disc bulges. Neurodynamics is a technique in which the hip & leg, or shoulder & arm are moved in a specific sequence to isolate particular nerves. The stretch is gentle with oscillatory movements to promote blood flow deep within the nerve.

Muscle Energy Techniques

Post-isometric relaxation (PIR) and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) are often interchangeably used to describe the relaxation response of a muscle after it is gently activated. With these techniques, the client presses into a clinician to activate the specific muscle needing to be relaxed. The contraction is usually around seven seconds, immediately followed by a passive stretch (the clinician does it). This technique is thought to relax muscle spasms reflexively. There are some slight variations between these techniques. However, the overlap is so similar they are more easily packaged together as the same technique. 

What else can I do to increase flexibility?

Chronically tight muscles are often in response to weakness in and or around the area. For example, many people with tight hamstrings can make more long-term progress by strengthening their butt (glute) muscles. Stiff and rigid muscles usually also have poor motor control (coordination).

In addition to stretching, strengthening and balance exercises are essential to improve the nervous system response in and around muscles. Finally, meditation and breathing techniques help reduce muscle tension. 

Stretch U vs. chiropractor

Stretch U is a business that offers stretching as a service. Stretch U is a wonderful option for anyone wanting to increase overall mobility who does not have an injury. Chiropractors are physicians with the ability to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions. In addition to stretching, chiropractors usually offer additional services such as rehabilitation, chiropractic adjustments, and myofascial release.

Chiropractor that does stretching

Often, when someone says they feel 'out of alignment' or 'uneven,' it's due to muscle imbalances. If certain groups of muscles are tighter in one area or on one side of the body, it creates an imbalance. It can be similar to driving down the road with wheels out of alignment. Over time it can cause distortions and unnecessary wear and tear.

Our St. Louis chiropractors offer body stretches and various other therapies to treat low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, etc. We also provide functional rehabilitation, which is the best option to build resilience and reduce injuries.

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