Are your muscles stiff and achy? Are you frustrated by decreased range of motion? If so, there’s a good chance that your muscles are too tight.
Most people don’t think of stretching as a first line of defense against pain, but it can be. When done correctly, stretching can lengthen your muscles and relieve annoying aches and pains. The question is, what is the right way to stretch?
The Wrong Way to Stretch vs. the Right Way to Stretch
Before we get into the correct method of stretching, let’s talk about the wrong way to go about it. The first rule of thumb when stretching is if it’s causing you to hurt, you are literally taking it too far.
Physiotherapist Julie Shearer explains, “For a muscle to be able to achieve an effective stretch, it needs to be able to relax. If you are stretching so hard that it is painful, you will not be able to relax and the muscle will not lengthen.” Stretching should not be painful.
You should also avoid holding stretches for an insufficient length of time. If a stretch is held for only a few seconds, the therapeutic effects of the action will not be realized.
Now, back to the RIGHT way to stretch. First, start with warm muscles. You can warm them up by doing some gentle aerobic movement or applying heat via a heating pad or a warm bath. Once your muscles are warm and you are actually stretching them, monitor your level of discomfort. It is OK to experience some discomfort, but when you start feeling pain, you’ve gone too far.
Last, Be sure to hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
Which Muscles Should Be Stretched?
Knowing the correct way to stretch is easy; understanding which muscles should be stretched and which should not is the hard part.
Did you know that not every muscle that hurts should be stretched? It’s true. Things can get confusing when you learn that there are two types of muscles that cause pain: tight, stiff, short muscles and muscles that are too long. Only muscles that are too short/tight should be subjected to proper stretching. It is usually not good to stretch muscles that are too long.
Physiotherapists Take the Guesswork Out of Stretching
Many people will have trouble determining which muscles are too short and should be stretched, and which are too long and should be left alone – that’s why it’s wise to get the assistance of a physiotherapist. Physiotherapists can diagnose muscular issues quickly and easily. Also, they will show you ways to stretch that are most effective for your particular needs.
Do you want to become your healthiest self by avoiding muscular imbalances? Would you like to reduce pain and increase range of motion? If so, stretching should be part of your daily life. Stay strong and stretch on…properly.