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October 17, 2016

Why do you need to stretch? Stretching is one of the most under-rated things to do as a part of your daily exercise routine. If you go to the gym or exercise daily, do you also stretch? If you are aging, as we all are daily, are you stretching? Stretching does not have to be a formal 1 hour long session. Stretching can be as quick as 90 seconds!! Here, below are lists of the benefits, how to’s and when to stretch. There are a few precautions at the end to be mindful of, so please read until the end.  If you ever have any concerns or questions about stretching, please ask your physical therapist for help.

The Benefits of stretching - 

• Improves flexibility and range of motion in muscle and joints

• Relieves Pain by improving blood flow & elongation of muscles

• Better performance in mobility and activities

• Prevention of injury & Decreases the Risk of Injury

• Maximizes muscle efficiency and relieves muscle fatigue

• Increases blood flow to the muscle (improved circulation for healing)

• Stress relief by the release of endorphins giving you a feeling of tranquility

• Improves your quality of sleep

• Restores posture

• Improves energy levels

• Some studies have shown that stretching may actually lower cholesterol levels

• Some studies show stretching may reduce muscle soreness after a strenuous workout

How to stretch -

• Breathe – do not hold your breath while stretching. Take slow deep breaths to be able to relax

• Proper alignment and posture – make sure you are in the best position to stretch the muscle you are focusing on (you may overstretch your back when attempting to stretch your hamstrings). Please speak to your therapist if you are concerned regarding your positioning.

• Both sides-Left and Right – you don’t want to stretch one arm or leg, or one side of your neck/back & not the other

• Focus on major muscle groups or activity specific groups for the best benefits

• Move slowly into each stretch – rapid quick stretches when done improperly will cause muscle injury

• Static holds – always hold the stretch and NEVER bounce

• Hold the stretch for 30 seconds – stretching for less than 20 seconds shows no benefit. The muscle fibers need to be able to release to beneficially stretch

  • o If there is a restriction or problem area, stretch for 60 secs
  • o If you are older, stretch for 60 seconds
  • o Younger children, stretch for 10 seconds

• Each muscle group should be stretched 2-4 times in a session

• No pain – stretching should never be painful. You may be stretching too aggressively or there could be an underlying issue. Please see your physical therapist if you continue to have pain while attempting to stretch – No pain, No gain does NOT work with stretching!

• Remember that the results of stretching are somewhat temporary. The gains you make in range of motion can be lost and return to the original length in about 4 weeks after cessation of stretching.

When do you stretch – Anytime!! Anywhere!!

• Regularly-at least 2-3X/week – muscles are elastic & are responsive to stretching, but if you don’t stretch regularly, they return to their original shortened length

• Always after activity – when they are at their “hottest”, they have the best circulation & response to stretching

• After waking up, directly before bed – if you are having pain, cramps or spasms that wake you up or more painful in the morning, stretch before you go to sleep. If you have pain when you wake up, stretch the first thing in the morning to relieve the pain.

• Midday fatigue – if you are sitting at your desk & are feeling sluggish & tired, STRETCH!!!! Better circulation means better levels of work & alertness.

Caution – Always check with your PT or physician before beginning any new exercises

• Do not stretch cold muscles as there can be more injury

• IF you have osteoporosis, be cautious - avoid leaning forward at the trunk or any excessive stretching or pulling

• Acute muscle strain or injury – while you may need to stretch a strained muscle, over stretching or being too aggressive, may cause an increase in injury or re-injure.

• Extra caution with use of steroids and other medications (increases risks of fracture or torn ligaments and tendons)

• RA or other connective tissue disorders, joint inflammation

• Progress gradually – range of motion isn’t gained overnight or over a few days – it may take weeks to see results, so don’t give up!

• Joint instability – if you have joint instability, you don’t need to stretch those muscles  of that joint

• Do not use the mindset of “No pain, no gain” while stretching

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