Stretching is an effective component of exercise- but only when done properly! A few simple coordinated physical motions can dramatically improve your overall health, wellness, and quality of life.
Passive vs Active stretching
Passive stretching, which is statically holding a position for a given length of time, will take quite a while to create a change, and also cause the shortest-lived effects on muscle length. Research says we would need to hold a position for >5 min (which nobody does) and the small effects would last less than 24 hours. What we need to realize is that muscle length is determined by the nervous system’s signals. When something feels like it is going further than the body has control of, signals get sent from the brain to tell it to tighten up, so that the body does not sustain an injury. The only way to improve this is to use mobility drills where you control your body into the end ranges of motion, to change the nervous system’s response to being in those “dangerous” end ranges. Change happens in the nervous system with active and purposeful movements, not pulling a muscle apart and hoping it will stay there.
Improve your mobility with corrective stretching
Stretching takes on special importance when you’ve become less mobile due to issues such as osteoarthritis or stenosis. The less your body moves, the greater the likelihood that your muscles and connective tissues become less elastic.
These changes limit your joint motion over time and create friction when you move, causing pain. Properly performed active stretching restores elasticity to your muscles, nerves, and connective tissue, which decreases friction and strain on your joints and allows you to move with ease.
Chronic pain syndromes often involve tight muscles. Syndromes such as fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome, cause muscle knots that limit muscle motion and trigger referred pain to other parts of the body. Regular active stretching can help you “untie those” painful knots.
PT and stretching
It’s important to make sure you’re doing the right kind of stretches before and after your workout. A physical therapist can put together an exercise routine for your specific type of workout.
Whether you’re playing a game of tennis, training for a marathon, sitting for work all day, or walking through the neighborhood, physical therapy can help you make the most of your activities. A physical therapist can teach you which types of stretches and how to safely perform them for your current physical condition and the type of activities you’re participating in.
Get started today
Whether you see a physical therapist or not, stretching should be a part of your daily routine. You’ll feel better, perform better, and avoid injury. Contact Central Park Physical Therapy today to learn more!