Stretching 101: The why, the how, and the benefits!

How many times has someone told you to stretch after an activity? Do you actually stretch when it is recommended?  Stretching is so important to do, but not many of us actually stretch. I know I skip stretching quite often, and I am fully aware of how beneficial it is for you.

Stretching helps increase our range of motion, but what does that actually mean? Range of motion is the amount of mobility in a joint.  Flexibility is the ability to move a joint easily through a range of motion. Both of these aspects of stretching are important to help maintain daily activities and be able to do the things you want and need to. 

A lack of flexibility can lead to several issues including neural tightness (nerve tightness), joint restrictions, muscle atrophy, poor posture, and other things. If our joints and muscles aren’t stretched frequently they get tight. This prevents us from doing things like reaching to the top shelf, bending down to pick up your grand kids, etc. The most dangerous part of this is if you reach down quickly when your muscles aren’t prepared, your tight muscles predispose you to straining a muscle because they are not able to adapt to the demands you are placing on it. 

Research has shown that aging and can lead to decreased shoulder flexion. As we age, our tissues lose elasticity, so we can’t increase our muscle length as well as we were able to before. For aging adults,  it is vital to work on your range of motion and flexibility so when you’re older you have more flexibility to lose.

Here are some ways that stretching is beneficial for you;

  • Increases flexibility
  • Increased mobility
  • Increased blood flow to the area
  • Decreased swelling
  • Decreased adhesion formation
  • Decreased pain

Stretching is really good for you, but if you don’t know how to stretch on your own, it’s not that beneficial. Here at Kauai Therapy & Wellness, we recommend home stretching to our patients quite frequently, and we send them home with information or a demonstration on how to perform home stretches.

We typically follow these principles to help increase our patients flexibility;

  • Perform stretches 1-2 times a day
  • Hold for 30 seconds to one minute (the longer you stretch, the longer the effects of stretching last)
  • Repeat each stretch 3-4 times
  • Maintain deep, even breathing throughout stretches
  • Do not move into positions that are painful

In general, to stretch a muscle, the muscle will need to be pulled into the opposite direction in which it contracts. For example, the hamstring performs hip extension, bringing your leg back. To stretch the hamstring, we pull the leg into flexion, or up towards you. There are many resources available to you to help aid you in stretching. We are happy to help you find the best stretching plan for you when you come see us.

Here at Kauai Therapy & Wellness we have a stretch therapy program where a trained professional will stretch you for either Twenty-Five minutes or Fifty to help increase your flexibility, prevent injuries and increase your performance.

Some helpful tools to help you stretch at home are a stretching strap and a yoga mat.