By Ron Berry, Master Physical Therapist
Get More Flexible with Assisted Stretching
When new clients come to PHASE IV Scientific Health & Performance Center their objective is a common one: improve their ability to move.
Some may have a specific sports goal in mind or some may just want to feel better moving in normal day to day activities. Increased flexible allows one to feel the ease of movement. A golf swing is improved with better rotation in the spine. A swim stroke is more efficient with better shoulder range of motion. Even picking objects up off the ground, or being comfortable sitting in a car, is a result of having better flexibility.
Flexible muscles allow joints to move through a more complete range of motion with less adverse mechanical impingement. This reduces joint stress and lessens the chance of injury and premature joint degeneration. Ever heard of “worse for wear?” Think of a pendulum that is stuck in tick and never tocks.
Improved flexibility gives our body more degrees of movement, and more degrees allow us to correct improper walking, standing, sitting, and sport or exercise technique. A simple example is with running technique. Good running technique involves being able to lift the knee up high enough so that it can land under a forward moving torso. If the gluteals and hamstrings are too tight and inflexible, then poor technique will result with greater potential for injury.
If a desk bound worker develops tight pectoral muscles and tight hip flexors at the front of the pelvis, then they will have trouble standing without being rounded forward and good posture won’t even be an option.
It is no wonder that one of the first things we want to do is teach our clients a comprehensive stretching regimen that they can do themselves so that they can improve their ability to move. Getting into a consistent stretching regimen can restore normal patterns of movement with freedom from discomfort.
But, some people have reported that they can’t quite get the desired feeling of the stretch, or, that they don’t seem to know how much force to put into the stretch. Some people feel that when they are working to hold the stretch positions, they are not relaxed enough to gain range of motion. For these people it can be very helpful to have someone assist them in stretching by positioning their body and applying force at just the right angle.
At PHASE IV and Forster Physical Therapy we can help clients achieve an improved range of motion and level of flexibility through ASSISTED STRETCHING. With our combined experience working with thousands of fitness clients, physical therapy patients, and elite athletes, we can position people in a safe manner, incorporate deep breathing, utilize proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) techniques, when appropriate, and improve one’s flexibility.
There are different types of stretching. Holding joints and muscles in positions near their end ranges, static stretching, and doing a series of movements in and out of a position, referred to as dynamic stretching.
To only rely on dynamic stretching to improve certain aspects of the nervous system that inhibit muscles from being tight, may be risky. This type of stretching alone will not garner the many other benefits of stretching.
Stretches held for several seconds are referred to as static stretching. This type of stretching not only safely stretches muscles, but also stretches the joints and other connective tissues. Stretching will relieve the stress and tightening resulting from normal repetitive movement over time.
Stretching can also affect scar tissue formation. After exercise or work there are often microscopic tears that occur in the muscles which repair through a similar process as that of a scar formation. When scars form they are rarely as pliable and flexible as the original skin or muscle. By stretching relatively soon after a workout the microscopic tears are given a better chance of healing in a non shortened state. Also, inflexible muscle tissues act as resistance to movement so that greater energy must be used by the other muscles to create the movement, and causing joints to wear out from decreased range of motion. Thus, greater flexibility will ultimately save you energy and spare your joints.
When you stretch, sustain holds at the point of first resistance. This will lead to a subsiding amount of tension in the muscle involving structures called muscle spindles that allow the muscles to relax. If the end range is met too aggressively, as in pushing too hard into the stretch, or quickly swinging a limb around as in some dynamic stretching methods, there are protection methods our brains use to negate lengthening of the muscles. The PNF techniques used in ASSISTED STRETCHING also take advantage of muscle spindles and their cohorts in muscle physiology, the golgi tendon organs, to allow for muscles to better lengthen.
We are clearly supportive of static stretching and feel it is a safe way to improve one’s mobility, decrease joint pain and the potential for injury, as well as improve athletic performance.
Take advantage of our new introductory service offering:
4 Pack of thirty minute sessions for $100, or $35 for a single session.
ASSISTED STRETCHING. It should serve as a nice adjunct to stretching that you do on your own and help you have more options of movement, greater freedom from discomfort with movement, and a feeling of better recovery after your activities.
Greater flexibility is earned over time with consistent effort. We recommend ASSISTED STRETCHING once a week for a month in conjunction with stretching on your own. This should get you on the path to feeling better, more agile, limber, and balanced.
Give us a call or shoot us an email 310-582-8212 or email@example.com and Relax on the treatment table and let us guide you to more flexibility!
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