I have had many patients come into my office the day after I have given them stretches, especially static stretches, and stated that they felt sore, sometimes even worse. Why would this happen? Why would the stretch become the enemy all the sudden?
As I have grown in my profession, I have learned that some patients, actually most patients, want that quick fix. They have an injury that is either getting on their nerves, keeping them from activity, or just really hurts. I have also learned that these patients want the miracle cure (even if they have had this pain for 6 months or 5 years) and feel that doing everything all at once is what is best for them to get a speedy recovery. Not only do they want all of their stretches and strengthening exercises all at the same time, but they want to perform them as hard and as much as they can so that they can get better quicker. There are many holes and problems with this, but one of the main problems is when a person pushes their stretch too far.
Make sure you are not making these mistakes:
1. Relaxing, therapeutic or detrimental
To properly stretch, you need to start with a light stretch that is comfortable. As you hold this stretch, the tension should slowly decrease and now you know you can move into a more therapeutic stretch. At this point you stretch the muscle just a little further and hold.
The detrimental stretch comes in when one takes the muscle past the tension position and into a pulling position. In this state the muscle is not relaxed, it is not comfortable , it is not healing and in fact it is being injured even more.
You need to be kind to the muscle in order for it to respond to what you are doing. Listen to the muscle and let it tell you that it is ready to move on to the next step.
2. No breathing
If you are not breathing while stretching you are missing out on a very therapeutic technique. I recommend breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. This gets your diaphragm involved.
Another sign of overstretching and detrimental behavior during stretching is holding your breath. If you cannot control your breathing, cannot breath properly because of the stretch or cannot breath in a relaxed and smooth manner, then you are stretching too far.
3. Holding the stretch too long
It is my personal opinion that one should hold a static stretch (in which you are still) for anywhere between 5-12 seconds. This 5-12 second mark embodies most of the ideas of the various research done about stretching. This allows for a simple stretch that allows the muscle to respond, but not become overwhelmed and begin to fire the muscle spindles and fight the stretch.
4. Pain with stretching
It is important to distinguish between stretching and therapy that is breaking up scar tissue. Stretching is done to ease the muscle tension and elongate the muscle. Other types of stretching are done to break up scar tissue. So with stretching and elongation techniques, you should have no pain. With therapy techniques that are breaking up scar tissue, you may have intense pain (as with frozen shoulder).
It is also important to note the difference between tightness, tenderness and pain. Everyone has different pain levels. If a stretch is so uncomfortable that it is causing you sharp pain, then you should ease off and slowly continue the stretch.
If you are feeling pain while stretching, then you are doing more harm than good. Ease off the stretch, relax and enjoy it.
5. Bouncing away
Do not bounce when you stretch. Bouncing can actually cause micro tears in the muscles, causing more damage and decrease the muscles range of motion even further.
Dr Tonya Ingalls, D.C.
Categories : Fitness News