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Stretch Your Way to Less Pain, More Flexibility

By Sandy Schroeder

If everything seems to take longer and hurt more, it's time to put stretching to work.

Sports medicine experts offer tips on making stretching work.

Stretch the whole body - Use yoga, tai chi or other mat exercises to work on all of the major muscle-tendon groups. Stretch the shoulders, neck, trunk, chest, hips, lower back, legs and ankles 2-3 times a week.

Stretch for 60 seconds - If you can only hold a stretch for 15 seconds, repeat it three times.

Before you start new stretching exercises, check in with your doctor to review your current routines. Harvard Health also suggests these steps.

Always warm up - Avoid injury with simple marching in place or a few dance steps. Warm showers work too.

If it hurts, stop - Never continue to stretch if you feel pain. Stretches should only create mild tension. Keep working at a slower pace.

Put good posture to work - Think about your posture as you sit, stand and move. The better it is the more effective your stretch will be.

Focus on each muscle - Keep your body balanced and watch for spots of tightness

Breathe as you move - Never hold your breath while stretching. That can drive your blood pressure up and drain your energy.

Stretch daily - Make sure you are stretching at least 2-3 times a week.

Create your own stretching routines - Add music, move outdoors, or vary the times. Keep it interesting to keep on doing the stretches

Reach out to others - Pick up an exercise buddy or involve  your family with a daily stretch session in the morning or the evening.

Make stretching a healthy habit - If you do it right, it may become as automatic as brushing your teeth.

Monitor your body - As you settle into a stretching routine, see how it is working out for you. Can you reach the top shelf or bend to the floor with less effort?  Do you feel less stiff and more free? Are you getting back into favorites such as golf, wilderness hikes, or family biking tours? Do home tasks go faster and seem easier?

Keep expanding your efforts - Once you have the hang of stretching you may want to try new sports, up your workouts, or set new goals for weight and fitness. Those simple stretches can do a lot to open new doors.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Mt. Juliet, Tenn.

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