Stretching is an important part of physical therapy and anytime you’re going to be active! Our physical therapists at HealthQuest Physical Therapy will include specific stretches into your treatment. Strength and endurance are both undeniably important; however, stretching is a crucial part of anyone’s regimen, whether you are an athlete or someone coping with aches and pains it’s important to stretch daily.
The 5 Benefits of Stretching
Stretching has a lot of benefits that we don’t always think about. Some of these benefits include:
#1 Improve range of motion
Range of motion consists of how well your joints can move in all directions. This influences every movement you make! If you have a constricting condition, such as arthritis or an injury, your range of motion can be hindered. Whether it’s turning your head to see behind you while driving, or bending your knee freely while running, range of motion is crucial for both daily life and for fitness pursuits. Stretching can help reduce stiffness and increase flexibility, therefore improving your range of motion.
#2 Relieves pain
Sometimes we forget how interconnected our bodies are. It is obvious that if we experience back pain, we should stretch out our backs. However, sometimes stretching your legs during physical therapy can provide unexpected relief to your back, as well. In fact, your hamstrings, upper thighs, and hips can all play a big part in creating lower back pain relief. Likewise, improving your posture through stretching your torso can provide the kind of support you need to keep your spine from compressing, which helps you avoid shoulder and neck pain. Essentially, stretching different parts of your body can provide relief to places you may not have considered!
#3 Enhances performance
This point is especially true for athletes. The more you condition your muscles, joints, and ligaments, the greater advantage you’ll have in your sport. For example, bodybuilders recover from their reps much quicker when they stretch as a cool-down. Golfers can achieve a longer reach by increasing their range of motion in their hips and shoulders. Swimmers can even out their strokes by perfecting their balance through stretching. If you are an athlete, stretching can play a crucial role in your performance. If you’re not an athlete, think of this benefits as endurance…stretching will help you go further, longer.
#4 Prevent injuries
When muscles are tight or tense, the likelihood of injury increases. This occurs because that particular part of your body isn’t working at its peak performance, even though you might be. When you stretch, you’re loosening up your muscles, in addition to increasing range of motion and improving balance, which all factor into injury prevention. All of these factors can prevent you from making the types of moves that lead to injury, whether it’s coming down too hard on one foot, twisting your back further than you should, or taking a fall due to lack of balance.
#5 Improve circulation
Stretching can reduce stress, but that isn’t the only reason it’s good for your heart and your musculoskeletal system. In fact, stretching plays a key role in almost every aspect of your physical abilities. Tight muscles constrict available oxygen supply, essentially robbing themselves of the nutrients they need. Stretches help reverse the process. When you stretch frequently, you’ll also get the benefit of increased blood flow to your joints and throughout the body.
The 5 Basic Types of stretching
There are many different types of stretching techniques used for different reasons, to help cut through some of the confusion, here is a quick explanation of most common types of stretching techniques. Before doing any stretching routine, please schedule a free assessment so we can help build a stretching program for you that has your medical history, injuries and lifestyle included.
#1 Static Stretching
This is the most common type of stretching. You do this by extending the targeted muscle group to its maximal point and holding it for 30 seconds or more.
There are two types of static stretches:
- Active: Added force is applied by the individual for greater intensity
- Passive: Added force is applied by an external force (partner, furniture, assistive device) to increase the intensity
#2 Dynamic Stretching
Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching requires the use of continuous movement patterns that mimic the exercise or sport to be performed. Generally speaking, it involves stretching your muscles whilst moving. Common examples include leg swings (video below), lunges, squats, hip & arm circles).
#3 Ballistic Stretching
This type of stretching is rarely recommended due to the injury possibilities and reserved for specific activities and sports. We do not encourage you to try on your own. Simply, it is where you stretch the muscle as far as tolerated, then, at the end range of movement, you bounce or force the joint that little bit further. These bouncing movements usually trigger the stretch reflex and may cause an increased risk for injury, and should only be performed with guidance. Common examples are utilized by martial artists and Ballet dancers.
#4 Myofascial Release
Through the use of a foam roller or similar device, myofascial release relieves tension and improves flexibility in the fascia (a densely woven specialized system of connective tissue that covers and unites all of the body’s compartments) and underlying muscle. It involves small, continuous back-and-forth movements that are performed over an area of 2 to 6 inches for 30 to 60 seconds and can be done anywhere on the body.
#5 Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
This type of stretching is often referred to as partner stretching because two people are needed to perform the movements. There are many forms of PNF, but most involve an isometric hold followed by a static stretch of the same muscle group. An example of PNF is a hamstring stretch where one person lies on her back with the right leg extended straight up into the air. Again, this should only be performed by a certified, trained professional.
We can help!
There are additional ways that stretching can help improve your quality of life, whether you find a sense of pride in being limber or relaxation in taking time to stretch out your body. When you’re ready to add stretches to your daily routine, consider getting started through physical therapy. Our physical therapists can talk you through which types of stretches may be best for you, whether it be static, dynamic, pre-activity, or post-activity. Contact us today to learn more about how our team can help you create a stretching treatment plan and how our services will benefit you!
Visit us at one of our conveniently located physical therapy facilities today and get your very own stretching program!