To Stretch or Not to Stretch, That is the Question

Here at BCC we frequently get the common concerns of “should I stretch?” or “I’m stretching, is that OK?”.  This question is actually complex to answer.  There are many benefits to stretching, but there are also very counter-productive means of stretching, especially if you are currently in pain. THE NEW YORK TIMES RECENTLY POSTED ANOTHER ARTICLE that had a good overview of this concern. Here are the BCC “nuts and bolts” generalities about stretching:

  • BEFORE exercise static stretching is NOT your best means for creating motion.  A more dynamic warm-up is a better way to create motion that will not weaken the joint stability and put you in a place where it is easier to become injured. (If you need help with creating a good warm-up, seeing your BCC Doc or even scheduling time with Nicki, our exercise physiologist, would be worth your while).
  • AFTER exercise static stretching has been shown to decrease soreness for prolonged periods.
  • There are “better” ways to stretch. For example, people are frequently doing hamstring stretches where they do a large forward fold and create significant lumbar spine flexion.  Not only is this not the most efficient stretch but it also can be a more dangerous stretch for people with certain histories of back pain.  Forward folding can also load the neurological structures more than efficient hamstring stretches.  (Check out this article about why people are always wanting to stretch their hamstrings). If you have questions about what stretches are good or bad, please ask.
  • There are some stretches that you should probably be doing MORE of, but not doing nearly enough.  These include stretching your ankles, anterior hips, thoracic spine, chest and shoulders.  ESPECIALLY if you sit at a desk for your work or schooling most of the day we’re willing to bet that you’re neglecting these areas.  MOST of the things that come into our office have to deal with stiffness in these areas. They are the by-product of poor posture and need to be actively combated.
  • Stretching itself is not the only answer.  Muscles also need to be turned on and USED.  Doing this in a good, stable pattern is what keeps us healthy.  Correct bending, squatting, lifting, walking, etc are imperative to good health.

At BCC we do not like to give out “cookie-cutter” solutions to fix everyone.  If you have questions regarding the above advice it is much easier to answer on a case-by-case basis.  For this reason, if you have questions feel free to come in and consult with one of the BCC Doc’s and see what movements are indicated for your current problems or exercise schedule.  Our goal is to make you good at taking care of yourself, so let us try and help you!!

68 Responses to “To Stretch or Not to Stretch, That is the Question”

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