The Importance of Stretching (Benefits? Controversial?)
Article written by: Dr. Brent Wells
When some hear the word “stretching” their mind immediately wanders mainly to athletes contorting their body to warm it up. However, what you might be surprised to learn is that stretching is important even for those who are not particularly the most active. Stretching can help to stop muscle tension while also preventing common injuries. This article will explore more about the importance of stretching and how it can benefit your life.
How Does Stretching Work?
Stretching involves you moving your body to certain positions. This can help to loosen muscles which can work to improve your flexibility. In other words, it will loosen up the fibers in your muscles to warm them up. Otherwise, “cooled” muscles are more likely to be shocked by the sudden movement and could cause an injury.
Types of Stretching
There are a few different types of stretching you can try out. The type of stretching you need to implement depends on the activity you’re planning to do. Some of the most common types of stretching are:
- Active Stretching – this is when you hold a certain position for a few minutes to help stretch your muscles. Unlike ballistic stretching, it helps to relax and slowly ease your muscles because there isn’t excessive force on them.
- Relaxed Stretching – when you stretch your body with the help of another person or body part. This type of stretching is often used to help heal injuries because it is slow and easy to do.
- Ballistic Stretching – involves moving a body part to a certain position to help add a bit of force to the tendons around it. While it might work to help quickly awaken your muscles, it can cause extreme tension down the road.
- Static Stretching – this type of stretching requires you to push your muscles to their limit. You then need to hold them at that position for a few seconds.
The Benefits of Stretching
Stretching comes with plenty of benefits. Below are some of the most common ones you’ll find when you do so.
● It Can Prevent Injuries
By pushing and pulling your muscles, you can help to prevent them from getting tense. This is very helpful for those who are active. This is because it can prevent common injuries from running, weightlifting, and other types of sports, such as a pulled hamstring or shin splints.
● It Keeps Your Joints and Muscles Healthy
Stretching helps to encourage healthy circulation in your joints and muscles. This in return can prevent these important body functions from losing blood flow and water retention. Your joints and muscles will be able to stay fit and flexible because you’re keeping them active thanks to stretching.
● It Can Prevent Fatigue
When your muscles aren’t moved often, it can lead to fatigue. In fact, studies show that muscle fatigue and weakness is often due to a buildup of fat or hypertension. Stretching can awaken your muscles to help prevent them from feeling rigid. It also helps your body to feel more energetic because it increases oxygen flow.
The Dangers of Stretching – Things to Keep in Mind
While stretching can be very helpful, it can be easy to overdo it. This is what makes it a controversial topic because it’s easy to incorrectly do. However, by keeping a few things in mind, you can help to prevent dangerous injuries.
● Stop if it’s Painful
When you stretch, you will feel obvious tension in the area you are moving. However, if you feel extreme pain or throbbing, stop stretching. This is a sign that you are overdoing the stretching and harming the muscles in that area.
● Don’t Stretch if You Have an Injury
Unless you have a doctor’s approval, don’t stretch if you have a severe injury. This can cause your injury to tear and not heal correctly. It could also lead to more pain down the road.
● It Could Weaken Muscles
If you overstretch, it could lead to weakened muscles. This is because the neuromuscular system will become imbalanced. The imbalance can eventually cause friction in a certain body area which can lead to injuries.
Tips for Stretching
Before you go to stretch, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.
● Hold Your Stretch for About 30 Seconds
After moving the body part you plan to stretch, keep your position for about 30 seconds. This can help to ensure the muscle works to unwind itself and has plenty of time to warm-up.
When you stretch you can use the following steps:
- Stand up straight in an open area.
- Move the body part you want to stretch. If it’s your leg, you can pull it up to your lower back or if it’s your arm, you can hold it across your chest.
- Find a comfortable position to hold it in.
- Keep that position for 30 seconds and then release.
● Focus on the Activity You’ll Be Doing
When you stretch, make sure to focus on the activity you’ll be doing. For instance, if you plan to go running, you don’t need to focus on doing excessive arm stretches. Rather, focus on your feet and legs. This way, you can give the muscles that will be specifically impacted priority.
● Stretch After Your Workout
A professional doctor will tell you should not only stretch before a workout, but afterward as well. This is because it can reduce post-muscle tension. It can also stop the buildup of lactic acid in the body, which is proven to cause soreness.
● Be Consistent
While stretching might help you for a small period of time, it will only be beneficial if you’re consistent with it. Because of this, make sure to constantly do it before you begin an activity. Otherwise, stretching won’t really help you.
Stretching can be a very helpful thing to do if done correctly. It will not only warm up your muscles to help prevent injuries, but can help to keep them healthy. However, it’s important to follow specific stretching techniques to prevent accidentally hurting yourself. By keeping these tips in mind, you can be sure to use stretching to its fullest potential.
About Dr. Brent Wells (Author of Article)
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab, a practice with multiple locations throughout Alaska, that offers services which range from massage therapy to physical rehab therapy. He was inspired to begin his own practice after having experienced many unprofessional healthcare situations. His goal is to help treat and heal others while also helping to educate patients as to how they can prevent future injuries with the help of chiropractic care and adjustment in Anchorage.
Dr. Wells attended the University of Nevada where he received a Bachelor’s of Science degree and eventually studied at Western States Chiropractic College where he received his doctorate. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.