Many of us have grown up believing that stretching before exercise reduces the risk of injury and helps muscles perform at their best. However numerous scientific studies conducted in recent years have found stretching before exercise to have no impact on preventing injuries.
In fact research indicates that stretching muscles prior to physical exertion actually decreases their strength.
If our conventional wisdom about pre-exercise stretching has been turned on its head, what else might we be getting wrong about stretching?
Sometimes even when you feel like you need to stretch, you shouldn't
If you have undiagnosed chronic pain or stiffness in a part of your body, stretching might not be of any benefit, in fact, it could make things worse.
A range of conditions including positional cervical cord compression, some vitamin deficiencies, trapped nerves, ligament problems and diseases like multiple sclerosis create soreness and stiffness in our bodies, but stretching simply will not help because the problem is not related to muscles or tendons.
Some conditions can be made worse by stretching. For instance if you have hyper mobility, often the last thing you should do is stretch. Hyper mobility is the term used to describe 'loose joints,' where the tissues surrounding the joints are not doing their proper job, resulting in an excessive range of movement. People with this condition are more likely to dislocate or injure joints, and stretching can actually cause this to happen.
If you have back pain and the cause is unknown, it's crucial that you realise you could really hurt your back by stretching and exacerbating the underlying condition.
Many people don't know how to stretch properly
Even if you're confident your pain or discomfort is stemming from a muscular problem, it is still a good idea to seek advice from an osteopath or other trained professional before stretching.
This is because often times we've actually not been taught how to stretch properly. If we get it wrong, we can cause injury.
Injuries often occur when people get a bit too competitive about stretching the furthest. We feel like this needs to be emphasised, stretching should not actually hurt! If you are in pain while stretching, you are probably pushing yourself too far and potentially causing damage.
Some other mistakes people commonly make during stretching include:
- Bouncing as we stretch - this can actually cause muscle tightness and injury
- Only stretching the sore side - if you focus your stretches on one side and ignore the other, you're setting yourself up for long term injury by creating imbalances within your body
- Not using the right technique - in disciplines like yoga correct technique is emphasised for a reason, if you're doing a stretch with poor technique you could be placing undue stress on certain joints and ligaments resulting in more pain and discomfort
If you have undiagnosed chronic pain anywhere in your body; consult us today for expert advice. We can provide you with tailor-made stretches appropriate to your condition, or we can let you know if stretching is not a suitable treatment for your condition.