Stretching is a vital part of exercising and should be part of your daily routine. Although it may be tempting to skip stretching now and then, we need to stretch to ensure our muscles stay flexible, strong and healthy. Physical therapists often see athletes and patients who could benefit from stretching to help with various areas they may be deficient in, like their posture, range of motion, flexibility, stress levels, and circulation.
Not only does stretching make us feel good, but it can also help avoid joint pain and strains in the long run. Use these five tips to make sure you are stretching correctly:
1. Develop a daily routine
- Our recommendation to stretch daily (or at least three to four times a week) doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stretch every single muscle every day. But tight muscles can affect your posture and create the potential for injury. For example, tight hip flexors along with weak abdominal muscles can result in an anterior pelvic tilt and contribute to increased stress on the back. If you sit in a desk chair all day, develop a routine that focuses on your lower half, like your calves, hip flexors, quadriceps in the front of your thighs, and your hamstrings. You should also aim to regularly stretch your shoulders, neck and lower back muscles. The routine should fit your personal needs.
Here are just a few benefits of maintaining a regular stretching routine:
- Reduced tension in muscles
- Increased blood circulation
- Increased energy levels (due to increased circulation)
- Increased range of motion and flexibility
- Enhanced muscular coordination
2. Warm up before you stretch
- Calling on your muscles to do strenuous activity like going on a run or playing a pick-up game of basketball without stretching can be harmful. Your muscles and tendons assist in moving your joints, and without the proper range of motion and flexibility they are more susceptible to being pulled or injured. For example, a lack of range of motion at the ankle and foot can contribute to Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis. Always warm up and stretch to ensure your muscles are ready, whatever the physical activity to follow may be.
3. Be mindful of your stretching
- Make sure to hold stretches for 30 seconds and avoid bouncing or other sudden jerks which can cause injury.
- Stretching can help relieve tension and tightness in muscles caused by stress. Take a few minutes to unwind, stretch and improve your overall wellness. Physical activity helps to release feel-good hormones called endorphins in the brain — so stretching can be a natural mood booster as well.
- Note: A slight tension during a stretch is normal, pain is not. If you do feel pain during a stretch there may be a strain, damage to the tissue or larger injury — in this case, stop stretching that muscle and contact your doctor.
4. Stay consistent
- Consistency is key when it comes to stretching. It may have taken weeks or months for your muscles to tighten, therefore it will take a while to help them loosen and gain flexibility. Stretching is a vital part of maintaining your mobility and independence and should be treated as such.
5. Consult with a physical therapist
- A physical therapist is the best source to help if you find yourself injured or in pain during or after a stretching session. Reach out to us today for a free injury screening!
At Premier Physical Therapy, we focus daily on overall wellness and providing preventive care and maintaining healthy muscle flexibility. Contact us today at 573-335-7868 to set up an appointment and receive expert advice for any of your aches and pains. Our experienced team is always here to help.