The Stretching Phenomenon: Why, When, and How?

Do you get out of bed in the morning and feel like old age, gravity, and your body just doesn’t want you to move? And if it’s going to let you, you’re moving really slow because your muscles feel like ratchet straps that somebody has tightened down too much? Or maybe your job or the continuous position you are in during the day makes you feel stiff?

Good news! There are several things you can do to help loosen tight muscles and take the pressure off the joints (that includes the spinal joints). Keeping the muscles toned and properly stretched can go a long way towards alleviating your stiffness and helping your chiropractic adjustments hold longer. And, who among us doesn’t want to have that great feeling you get after an adjustment hanging around for a little bit longer?!!

First, flexible muscles have more strength and power. They are better able to adapt to the day to day demands you put on them at any age. If you have poor flexibility, the muscle fibers only contract a short distance when you use them, so the power and strength output is low. Flexible muscle fibers have a greater contraction distance, resulting in greater power and strength. Compare it to a rubber band that you only stretch a little bit and let it go…not much happens except it falls to the floor a short distance from you. But, if you pull back on the rubberband and load it…WHAM! The rubberband flies across the room. That’s more like the power your muscles can have if you stretch them. Not that you’ll become a super hero, but you will be less likely to injure yourself in day to day activities.

Secondly, flexible muscles allow our joints to move properly through their range of motion (ROM). When a muscle is tight, it may pull on a particular joint improperly and cause discomfort, soreness, and even worse…PAIN! This includes the joints in your spine. Vertebrae can be pulled out of place by muscles that are tight, and some of the bones in your spine and pelvis have some large and powerful muscles attached to them. So, to get your body to respond better to adjustments, spend a little time stretching each day.

Stretching can be done daily. And you won’t need to dedicate an hour to it. 5-10 minutes a day will work wonders. You will want to hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds (I prefer 30 sec., like our Spinal Rejuvanation Therapy Program). It gives the muscle time to change its memory to a longer muscle. The best time to stretch is after you have worked out or after some physical activity like a walk or gardening. The blood flow in the used area is increased at that time and muscles are more pliable, making stretching easier. And when you cool down, your muscles S-T-R-E-T-C-H into a longer shape. Remember…NO BOUNCING! Unless you’re a high performance athlete under the guide of a trainer or doctor, stay away from ballistic stretching. Just use a nice slow steady hold. Go until you feel a pull and hold. Increase the stretch as it gets easier.

And lastly, understand that this will take some time. There’s no quick fix for inflexibility, and everyone can improve. Keep your goals realistic within any physical limitations you have, but with a steady resolve, you can have better motion and fewer aches and pains! Ask your doctor if you have questions. Happy Stretching!