What to Do When Your Range of Motion Shrinks
By Sandy Schroeder
Everything seems fine, but then one morning when you reach up to the top shelf or bend down to tie your shoes, it’s a difficult stretch. The body has a way of tightening up without telling us, reducing our ability to do things around the house and at work.
Your range of motion is how far you can move a joint in any direction. When that flexibility changes, stretching may keep your joints moving to keep your body limber and your life together.
“People don't always realize how important stretching is to avoiding injury and disability," says Elissa Huber-Anderson, a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital. As the years roll ahead, flexibility is lost when muscles shorten. The less we move, the shorter the muscles become and the less range of motion we have. Over time you may have trouble carrying out household tasks, climbing stairs, and keeping your balance to avoid falls.
Start Stretching to Regain Range of Motion
There is no time like the present to begin stretching your muscles to regain your flexibility. When you do, the benefits will begin to emerge.
- Muscle or joint injury will lessen
- Joint and back pain may shrink
- Posture and balance will improve
- Range of motion may improve
How to Begin Stretching
First, check with your doctor for approval of new exercises. You may want to see a chiropractor to help you put together a good stretching routine.
Plan to stretch three or four times per week exercising the hamstrings, calves, hips, thigh quadriceps, and the muscles of the neck, shoulders and lower back. Always warm up first, and stop if there is pain.
- Breathe comfortably while stretching
- Stretch to the point of mild tension, never pain
- Keep hips squared, facing forward as you rotate
Here’s a stretch to try from HarvardHealth.
Do a seated rotation - This stretch is designed for the back.
- Hold 10 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times
- Sit straight on a chair with feet flat on the floor, arms at sides
- Slowly rotate head and body to the right
- Place left hand on outside of right knee and right hand next to right hip
- Hold and then slowly return to starting position
- Repeat on other side
As you get into a healthy stretching routine, you can back it up with other activities. You may want to walk, bike, or exercise in a heated pool as you regain your range of motion, and your life.
To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Monrovia, Calif.