Stretching is a simple and effective way to keep your body in good working order, but it’s also often an often overlooked element of self-care.
Motion = Medicine
Your body, above all else, is a movement machine, and in a very real sense Life is motion.
“Motion = Medicine”…. “Motion is Life” …..“Motion is lotion” for your body .. You get the idea, there are lots of catchy phrases which get thrown around.
The point is that moving every day is crucially important to your overall health and wellness, and stretching (and knowing how to stretch properly) is just as important to making sure you’re moving well as is exercising or even getting an adjustment to keep your spine working optimally. In fact, if more of us performed regular stretching, you’d probably need fewer adjustments!
Over time, stretching seems to have gone from being a rather natural thing to do, to being viewed as part of an exercise routine… true, stretching should be part of your exercise regime, but many of us now seem to think the need to stretch applies only to athletes or, at the other end of the scale, that we need to commit to a lifetime of yoga for stretching to help us at all.
That’s simply not true – Consider this: When you wake up in the morning or stir from a nap, what’s the first thing you tend to do? Stretch! It’s almost as if your body is trying to tell you something, isn’t it?
How to stretch more
Stretching really can be a simple as sticking your arms and legs out and getting everything to be just a little less stiff, that’s certainly a good step – but we can go one better by Incorporating simple stretches and exercises that focus on flexibility into your daily routine. In fact, this is one of the major areas we advise our clients to work on when trying to overcome a painful complaint – regular stretching can help your body maintain the ability to move through its full range of motion without pain.
For example, simply improving the mobility of your mid-back (thoracic spine) can go a long way towards reducing your low back pain, improving your posture, and even decreasing your likelihood of experiencing shoulder issues.
So how should we be stretching? There are two main types of stretches: static and dynamic.
Static stretching involves stretching different parts of the body to the point of tension (not pain).
When “cold” muscles are stretched in this manner, the stretch itself may actually contribute to muscle tightness, so it’s best to perform these stretches with warm muscles – in this sense, it’s fair to say that static stretching may be best performed at the gym.
Unlike static stretching which involves moving a joint to a point of slight discomfort and holding it for a length of time, dynamic stretching is based on movement and can be used to warm up muscles in the first place. Dynamic stretching is about moving your body through your common ranges of motion with the goal of increasing your range of motion with each repetition of the stretch.
Activities such as Yoga or Pilates are excellent exercise forms which involve a lot of dynamic stretching, so it’s easy to see how they’ve become associated so strongly with stretching as a whole, but it’s important to realise that you can perform dynamic stretching at any time!
When done routinely, dynamic stretching can help release muscle tension, increase energy levels, and improve the delivery of nutrients to your muscles.At our clinic, we encourage our clients (Especially those working at a desk) to take quick stretching breaks throughout the day – making this small lifestyle change can, over time, make a huge difference to your overall health and comfort.
How to stretch safely
While you can stretch anytime, anywhere, knowing how to stretch with proper technique is key. Stretching incorrectly can do more harm than good, and if you’re totally new to stretching exercises it’s advisable to get some tips and recommendations from a professional, like a chiropractor or sports therapist. If you’re looking to stretch a certain area of the body to relieve pain and tension a professional will often recommend not only stretches that target the problem area, but also some to relieve tension in the supporting muscles.
If you don’t have the benefit of professional advice, however, it’s easy enough to find some stretching exercise demonstrations online – just observe a few key points to make sure you’re not actually increasing your risk of pain or injury!
First and foremost, never stretch to the point of pain – while stretching can sometimes be slightly uncomfortable, it should never actually be painful.
Secondly, remember that your primary goal is also to achieve and maintain equal flexibility from side to side – not to outright achieve the flexibility of a gymnast, nor to be “better” on one side or the other.
Finally, concentrate your stretches on major muscle groups like your hips, low back, neck and shoulders, and supplement with stretching any other joints and muscles that you routinely use each day. Try to ensure that all your major muscle groups are getting some kind of stretch is advisable, as leaving some muscles tight and others relaxed may be uncomfortable and might even raise your risk of injury.
Need some advice?
If you’re looking for some guidance on stretching, or just trying to improve your posture and get out of pain, why not take a look at our new patient special offer? Get some professional guidance and try a chiropractic adjustment while you’re at it, all for just £55! (at time of publication).