STRETCHING: Not Always the Best, or First, Answer

STRETCHING: Not Always the Best, or First, Answer

I have taken this approach for many years, begun in large part due to my personal history with stretching/injuries.

This week I took a class that involved a lot of stretching through the pelvic/low back area, and an old injury of mine was reactivated.

As I worked/explored to figure out what had happened, how/why, and what I needed to do to resolve the problem, I was again reminded that stretching may not always be the best, or first, answer.

Very often when people feel pain/tightness/restriction in an area, they believe the solution is to stretch the area.

While it may be the case that an area feels tight because muscles in that area are tight, before I would recommend stretching, many questions arise for me, starting with: why are muscles in that area tight? Is the “tightness” really muscular, or a result of restriction in joints/fascia?

Is the “tightness” because of other types of restrictions (i.e., bony/joint) that may be preventing those muscles from functioning as they should? Do muscles feel “tight” because other muscles that would ideally be working together with the ones perceived as being “tight” are not activating properly/being used in proper balance? Are the “tight’ muscles actually stabilizing because other body parts are not able to do their job? (Not the most ideal solution, necessarily, but perhaps the best one they body was able to come up with at the time.) Is the “tightness” the result of postural patterns? (Stretching alone is not likely to change postural patterns.)

Sometimes stretching – either general or targeted - will help an area of tightness/restriction/pain, and sometimes it will not. Sometimes general stretching will not, but targeted stretching will. Often one needs to monitor joints in the areas one is stretching.

Many people can stretch whatever they want without creating any additional problems. Some people cannot.

Many people stretch and stretch and stretch and feel no better. Some people stretch and feel worse.

So how do you know if stretching is the answer - for you, or in this particular situation? Sometimes you figure it out by trial and error; sometimes your past history can guide you.

A Bodywork Beyond Massage Movement session with me can help explore what is occurring for you, and whether or not stretching (and what to stretch) might be helpful, or if other types of motion/sessions would be more effective for your situation.

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