A Chiropractor's Guide To Stretching
The reasons to stretch are many with far reaching effects. Stretching can help prevent injuries and treat injuries that already exist. When performed correctly, stretching promotes flexibility which is the primary factor in reducing the risk of injury. When groups of muscles and tendons have a greater range of passive motion, they are much less likely to experience tearing when used actively.
Besides being a great aid to injury prevention, stretching can speed recovery from injuries and enhance athletic performance. Even breathing, an important aspect in competitive sports, is improved by stretching which can make the neck, shoulders and upper back more limber.
Stretching can be divided into three categories: static, ballistic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). The method known as static stretching is the safest in terms of being least likely to cause injury, and is most often recommended to athletes. Ballistic stretching involves bouncing motions and PNF stretches require a certain level of experience to perform safely.
Static stretching yields the most benefits when it is performed after some warm-up exercises because the increased blood flow enhances flexibility and gains in stretches come more easily with a reduced risk of injury. In essence, the principle of static stretching is to move a joint to the end of its range of motion which manifests as a gentle pulling sensation in the targeted muscle. The gentle pulling sensation should be held for about 15 to 20 seconds.
It is important not to over strain or bounce on the muscle as this can lead to injury. During static stretching, each repetition of a stretch will yield an increase in flexibility and range of motion for a particular joint with a set consisting of 3 to 5 stretches being a sufficient number of repetitions. Beginning at the neck and working down towards the feet is recommended because it facilitates gains in flexibility as the stretches progress down the body. Alternating between sides of the body being stretched is also a good idea.
Muscle tightness can be due to a wide variety of factors that include genetics, injuries, and abnormal biomechanics. Trying to make large gains in flexibility within a short period of time isn’t recommended. The correct approach is gradual and persevering over a long period, with the idea of making stretching a daily habit so that flexibility is maintained. The benefits of stretching can take a considerable amount of time to take effect but are entirely worth the trouble.