The idea of stretching as part of physical fitness goes all the way back to the Roman Empire, whose soldiers were told to stretch to prepare for battle. We’ve been stretching ever since. When we yawn, we raise our arms above our heads or behind us. It is instinctual. It feels amazing. However, does stretching truly prevent injuries? How do you stretch properly? Your chiropractor can help you answer these questions.
The scientific benefits of stretching first appeared in an 18th-century study of the structure and function of the skeleton and bony structures. Today, stretching is regularly recommended by physical therapists, chiropractors, and other kinesthetic physicians for pain relief, rehab, or injury prevention.
Most personal trainers, athletic trainers, and physicians agree on one thing: static stretching – placing a particular muscle or muscle group in a position where it can be extended for a certain amount of time – provides performance advantages and benefits.
The bottom-line benefit is that stretching can increase your range of motion and prepare your muscles for activity. If you don’t stretch, your muscles become tight and begin to shorten in length over time. When you perform an action, your muscles are unable to extend all the way, which can increase the risk of injury to the muscle.
The Benefits of Stretching
Stretching before a workout helps your body become more flexible, decreasing your risk for injury because you’ve warmed up the muscle and prepared it for activity rather than going in cold. A proper warm-up will increase your blood circulation, allowing your muscles to be more elastic and mobile.
More specifically, healthcare professionals and personal trainers will encourage people to stretch the main muscle groups involved in the exercise session or activity. If you’re going to run or do lower body strength exercises, for example, you’ll want to stretch the hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves.
Guidelines for Stretching
It’s important to stretch when your muscles are warm to avoid injury. As chiropractors, we tell patients not to overdo their stretch or bounce their body to get to a deeper stretch. Pushing your body beyond its limit and before it is ready can lead to a muscle injury or tear.
Stretching, done correctly, prepares your body for strenuous exercise and therefore has many benefits:
As a general guideline, perform a stretching movement for 10 to 30 seconds, taking care to only go as far as you feel tension but no pain. These stretches can cause your heart rate to elevate. An increased heart rate signals the heart to pump more blood to the muscle groups involved in the stretch, preparing them for activity.
And what about doing post-workout stretching? Post-workout stretches are great for helping your body move excess lactic acid out of your muscles, which can help you avoid post-workout soreness. Post-workout stretches also help get the muscles back to their original length.
What Research Says About Stretching
Studies on this subject have been performed for more than 30 years. In 2002, a study was conducted with participants entering the military. The data showed stretching mildly reduced soreness 72 hours after the activity and reduced the rate of injury by 5%.
Most physicians and other professionals who use stretching as part of rehabilitation will say the even a little benefit is still a benefit. Stretching can help both pre-and post-workout for various reasons, and including stretches in one’s exercise routine is recommended!
Stretching, combined with chiropractic care, is a great combination. Chiropractors have a deep understanding of the proper biomechanics of the body. Poor body mechanics and improper warm-ups and stretching movements are common causes of injury.
Chiropractic care is safe, gentle, and non-invasive. Treatments by chiropractors are designed to improve overall health and well-being by allowing the brain and body to communicate effectively. If indicated by a chiropractor’s physical exam, specific chiropractic adjustments to the spine or area of injury are used to reduce pain to the site, restore proper nerve function, and improve mobility.
Not all chiropractic treatments involve adjustments. Chiropractors also provide treatments for soft tissue injuries using various methods, and they may also recommend lifestyle changes and nutrition information to ensure proper body function and prevent further injuries.
CUKC Chiropractic Health Center
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC), founded in 1922, is a private, nonprofit, chiropractic and health science-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas. The CUKC on-campus Chiropractic Health Center is open to the public and treats patients from Kansas City’s 15-county metro area. Our goal is to provide care and solutions for a better, more productive life for our patients.