Stretching. It is something that is talked about frequently, especially when someone is injured. “I know I don’t stretch enough.” “I finally started stretching.” “My therapist gave me stretches to do.” “My doctor said all I need to do is stretch.” All statements I commonly hear. And yet, the pain is still present in the people who tell me this.
So the question needs to be raised: is lack of stretching really the problem? Short answer. Nope! And now for the long answer…
Lack of flexibility can be a contributor to injuries, but very rarely is stretching the solution to the problem. It is important to always ask the question ‘why’ with anything going on in the body. In this case, ‘why are the muscles tight?’ Is it truly because you don’t stretch enough? Or is it possible there is a different reason? Many times, there is a different reason.
Yes, muscles can get tight because you don’t make a habit of moving through your full ranges of motion on a regular basis. In fact, it is very possible that is what is going on with you. In these circumstances, stretching may be beneficial, but only if you then use the motion. You can stretch all you want, but if you don’t teach the body how to use, stabilize, and control the new range of motion you created with the stretch, it is not going to matter. Two things happen if you don’t take time to teach the body how to use the newfound range: 1) it goes back to where it was because it doesn’t know it needs to be able to elongate further and/or 2) you injure yourself with the new range because your body didn’t know how to stabilize and control the new position.
Besides tightness due to not challenging the range of motion, the muscles also get tight as a protective response when the body doesn’t know how to stabilize itself. When the muscles that surround the joint are weak and can’t stabilize it well, the body will do whatever it can to stabilize. The way it does this is by tightening up muscles. If you don’t take time to gain the stability in the areas that are weak, the muscles are going to continue to remain tight no matter what you do to stretch them.
So, instead of wasting your time by constantly stretching, how about changing things up and doing something that will be more worth your time. Start doing some loaded mobility work. What does this mean exactly? It means actively moving through your full range of motion, and even challenging that motion a bit, in a way that requires all the stabilizers in the area to fire as well.
Confused on what I am talking about? Let me show you some examples of the two common areas people complain about being tight in: hamstrings and calves.
Want more help figuring out what the best things are to do for your specific issue? Chat with Dr. Brianne Showman to figure out what your best next steps are for resolving your pain. Schedule your free call now!
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