Stretching lengthens the muscles, tendons and joints and is generally performed to increase the flexibility in these structures. They should be performed in a pain free manner (although you should feel a stretch!) and need to be held for at least 15 seconds to allow elongation of the tissues.

The physical demands of everyday life and sport place an individual into extreme positions requiring the body to manage through sufficient flexibility. If an individual lacks flexibility they are at a higher risk of injury as the joints are unable to perform normal movement patterns needed to function on a daily basis. If one joint lacks range of movement, the body will compensate through movement at another joint. This causes the body to deviate away from normal movement, causing muscle imbalance and then injury.

To ensure optimal joint range of movement it is important to maintain soft tissue (muscle, tendons, ligaments) length. This can be achieved through regular stretching, whether it is alone or in conjunction with further treatment methods (trigger point release, acupuncture, massage).

Stretching has shown to provide the following benefits:

Can stretching help me prevent sports injuries?

Yes. The evidence to suggest pre-exercise stretching reduces injuries is limited, however stretching regularly to maintain joint range of movement has been shown to reduce the risk of injury. Although playing sport is a fantastic way to improve your strength and fitness it may lead to tightening of muscles specific to that activity. For example; runners may get tight calves, hamstrings and quadriceps and swimmers can get tight chest and back muscles. The tight muscles may become painful over time and cause restricted movement which will increase stresses on the surrounding tissues. For example, a runner with tight calves and tight quadriceps is much more likely to suffer from anterior knee pain (pain under the knee cap) as the tight muscles will alter biomechanics and create greater stresses at the knee. Adding regular stretches to your training program will help you continue sport without injury.

Can stretching help me recover from injury?

Many soft tissue injuries will recover much more quickly and effectively when regular stretching is added to your treatment program. Stretching an injured muscle will increase the speed and strength of repair, help organise scar tissue and will restore muscle length which will lessen the risk of re-injury. However, it is important to remember the stage of the injury when stretching a strained muscle. Rigorously stretching an acutely injured muscle may lead to further damage to the muscle fibres so it is important to get guidance from a physiotherapist before starting a stretching program.

I work at a desk, can stretching help my work related upper back pain?

Yes. Spending long periods of time working at a desk can lead to tightness in the tissues of your back, neck and shoulders. This may manifest as pain in the muscles joints and nerves. Regular stretching can counter the muscle tightness caused by desk work and will help you maintain good work posture which will reduce the accumulation of stresses placed on the tissues. This can be a complicated and multifaceted problem so it is advisable to have an assessment with a physiotherapist before starting a stretching program.

If you would like to discuss your problem before booking an appointment please give our physiotherapy team a call, we will do our best to help.