Lifestyle

Stretch to improve flexibility and avoid injury | Staci Lyons

By Staci Lyons

An often overlooked piece in physical wellness is flexibility.  The human body is made up of interconnected chains of various muscle groups.  As we grow older these muscles become less pliable and begin to pull on one another.  Some of our larger muscle groups can begin to pull on the entire chain in a way that eventually leads to chronic pain or injury.  A leading cause of lower back pain, for example, is tightness in your hamstrings, which are the muscles along the back of your thighs.  When a person has tight hamstrings, they must compensate by bending from their back when leaning forward instead of using the full motion of their hips.  This movement fault creates increased torque on the small back muscles and increases the risk of strain while bending or lifting.

There are several styles of stretching that can improve muscle flexibility.  The most common is a static stretch.  This type of stretching involves taking a muscle to the end of its comfortable length and holding for 30-60 seconds.  Caution should be used to avoid stretching too hard as this can actually damage the muscle or create a reflex tightening of the tissue.  The second style of stretching, which is becoming more popular among active individuals, is known as “dynamic” stretching.  This activity involves repetitively stretching and activating the muscles through movement.  This option utilizes the functional movement of the joint and the heat generated by movement to optimally stretch the tissue.

Some creative ways to start your stretching program include stretching in the shower while your temperature is warm or putting a stretch into a usual routine, such as brushing your teeth or talking on the phone.  It’s amazing what three minutes daily can do to improve your muscle balance.

Staci Lyons is the owner of Pinnacle Physical Therapy.

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