Perform for Life Physical Therapy
537 Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard
Severna Park, MD 21146
To Stretch Or Not To Stretch?
It is in our fast paced nature to squeeze in workouts whenever we can, and forget about the self-care essentials to maintain a properly functioning body. Stretching is one of those less exciting activities that are easy to skip over for one reason or another. Some may feel they don’t need to stretch because they just want to get stronger, faster, or feel the burn more. There may not be enough time; or one may just not want to do it, feel like they need it, or don’t like it because it hurts or does nothing.
There are many reasons why stretching is important: improving flexibility of a muscle, improving mobility of the body, reducing injury risk, and better muscle performance. Improving flexibility can be further defined as improving range of motion (ROM) of a joint.
For example, stretching the hamstring may improve the motion of the knee or the hip. Improving mobility of the body is a more functional description such as improving one’s ability to move from the floor to standing. Stretching your hips/knees may assist in this functional task and improve your overall mobility.
Reducing injury risk and enhancing muscle performance are controversial reasons because over-stretching may cause an injury and not allow the muscle to perform to its best ability. It’s important to know the limits of a stretch and to know when and how to do a stretch. If stretches cause pain, the person is likely not doing it correctly. For example, a standing quad stretch, when done incorrectly, can cause a large amount of low back pain. A physical therapist is a great guide on these nuances of stretching.
The reasons listed above are not always true for everyone. Like many other things in life, it depends. A very flexible, or hypermobile, person likely should not be stretching, as they are stretching more of the joint capsule and ligaments than actually changing the length of the muscle and its tendinous attachments. They would benefit from an external force, such as a lacrosse ball or foam roller, being applied to the “tight” muscle to change the physiological state of the muscle. If someone is injured, the stretches should be focused on the areas that are directly affecting the injured area.
A physical therapist should be the guide on proper stretches, technique, and timing of stretches. Stretching before a workout has been shown to be detrimental causing “stretch induced strength loss.” Stretching after may be best when there’s no injury present. A non-injured person may not need to stretch after every workout, it depends on what the workout consists of and the goals of that type of exercise. Again guided by a physical therapist or another trained professional is the best way to address proper stretching.
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