Comments Subscribe to Personal Liberty News Feed Subscribe to Personal Liberty
 

How To Stretch… Correctly!

July 6, 2010 by  

How To Stretch… Correctly!

Regular stretching is necessary for optimal health. The cause of many avoidable aches and pains is lack of suppleness and excess tightness in the muscles. Not stretching is a problem, yet stretching the incorrect way is also a problem.

Many athletes and active people stretch before or after their activity yet still experience muscle pulls and tendon tears. The problem is they’ve been taught the wrong way to stretch since childhood. Incorrect stretching can lead to pulls and tears of muscles, tendons and ligaments. And most people, when they feel their muscles are painful or tight, will (incorrectly) stretch them more in the hopes of stretching through the problem. But they are only exacerbating it.

In this article I am going to give you guidelines for stretching correctly. I will explain two different methods to do so: one for lay people who want to feel good and the other for more active people or athletes whose activities require flexibility.

Stretching To Feel Good
For people with any kind of localized or general acute or chronic pain, stretching is a must. Sitting on a chair all day—whether at a desk, in a car or on the couch—leads to shortening of various muscles in the body.

The position of sitting often shortens the piriformis muscles, which lie underneath the gluteus muscles. Tightened piriformis can make the pelvis rotate off center, which can cause hip pain, leg pain and low back pain. Sitting slouched on the sofa or chair can cause pain across the mid back rhomboids and also the levator scapula and trapezius muscles. Sleeping with your head placed incorrectly or typing or reading while looking down can cause tightening of the many neck muscles.

The simple fact is that even without engaging in athletic activities, the muscles of the body tighten as a result of our daily activities. And chronic tightening can cause chronic pain, tension and soreness. Stretching is the answer.

Stretching for the purposes of wellness (as opposed to athletic activity) should be done slowly, rhythmically and quietly. In this regard you stretch to feel good, not to gain flexibility. Here are the guidelines:

  1. Isolate the muscle or muscle group you want to stretch.
  2. Find the position where you feel the very first sign of tightening or pulling in the muscle group.
  3. Remain still and wait patiently for that sensation to disappear.
  4. Only then do you lean or bend further in the direction of the stretch.
  5. Again feel the first sign of the stretch, and repeat the steps above.

There are many good books on the market that give the positions for stretching. Most of them should suffice, as long as there is no undue pressure put on any joint. You are probably safe doing some basic techniques you already know. To stretch correctly you must not rush, must not push to where it hurts and you must patiently await the muscle’s natural release of tension.

Stretching For Flexibility
Athletes often injure themselves by stretching improperly. Either they warm up a bit before engaging in their activity and then stretch afterward, or they stretch too much in the beginning and not enough at the end of it.

It is imperative that athletes warm up thoroughly and then stretch properly prior to the activity and after the activity. Athletes must warm up to stimulate blood flow and increase body temperature to allow the muscles to become supple.

Then stretching to elongate the muscle resting length can begin so the activity does not tear anything. After the activity the athlete should stretch in order to soothe the muscles and help prevent them from cramping.

Sounds time consuming, I know, but doesn’t chronic pain take more time from you?

For athletes I recommend a method of stretching called muscle energy technique (MET). This is similar to proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), but is not as rigorous and potentially damaging to the athlete if done incorrectly. And remember, correct stretching is what is important. Here’s what you do:

  1. Isolate the muscle or muscle group you want to stretch.
  2. Find the position where you feel the very first sign of tightening or pulling in the muscle group.
  3. Apply resistance for that muscle in the opposite direction you are trying to stretch into.
  4. Only apply 20 percent of your strength in the resistance. Maintain a steady pressure at that level for seven to 14 seconds.
  5. Release the resistance, but do not allow your stretching limb to change position by either flexing or extending. Wait five seconds.
  6. Slowly glide deeper into your stretch, until you feel the next level of pull, and repeat the above steps.

While many of the MET stretches require a partner, enough of them can be done alone. Since PNF stretches are gaining more publicity these days you can pick up a book or video on them. But use the MET method above.

Essentially they are the same, but PNF requires more force for a longer duration and from deeper positions. MET is the way to go, especially if you are not properly trained in PNF and want to avoid injuries. Moreover, simply relaxing into the stretch is too time consuming for athletes who need the extra time to warm up and cool down.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Jeffrey R. Matthews

Facebook Conversations

Join the Discussion:
View Comments to “How To Stretch… Correctly!”

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.

Is there news related to personal liberty happening in your area? Contact us at newstips@personalliberty.com

  • http://www.agelessathletics.com Steve

    I read all of your articles and enjoy them. This is also a very nice article and as an aging “athlete” I believe quality mobility work (not necessarily “stretching”) is the key to aging well. This article should be heeded by the general population. However, when it comes to athletes and athletic performance, recent studies have shown that “stretching” prior to competition actually weakens the muscle and impairs optimum performance. Just a consideration…keep up the great work and love your articles.

    • http://yahoo Marcia Johansen

      Hi, Your article is excellent. I have had chronic pain in my upper back and neck for many years. I have had all kinds of treatments and now am going to physical therapy. I wake up in the early hours of the morning with severe pain in my neck and take medication and it still does not help me. I use ice packs and heat for some relief I just don’t know what to do. I am miserable and very tired. Can you suggest something?

      • missy thomas

        That sounds like me a few years ago. I found no relief and Drs. could not figure out the problem. I finally started to treat it like I would if my horse had the same problem…long story short, with ice I finally localized a pinched nerve in my shoulder, couple months of ice therapy and now yoga to keep me alligned and loose. I can’t sit though for long periods without feeling a twinge… I use an exersize ball as a chair while on the computer or whatever at home and that lets my shoulder/back be happy.

  • Hannibal Smith

    (comment removed for offensive content)

  • DOUG

    HEY HANNIBAL, WITH THAT KINDA OPENING STATEMENT, WE CAN SEE YOU A KIND, LOVING AND ALWAYS SUPPORTIVE KINDA GUY. BY OPENING WITH THE ENDURING TERM ” THE DOPE” IT SHOWS A COUPLE OF THINGS 1- THAT YOU ARE FAR SUPERIOR TO THIS PUBLISHED DOCTOR, YOU YOUR SELF PROBABLY ARE A WORLD RENOWNED EXPERT ON THIS TOPIC, AND NO DOUBT HAVE WRITTEN MANY BOOKS AND HAVE HELD MANY CLASSES FOR THE ELDERLY, AND AGING ON THIS SAME TOPIC! OR 2- YOU ARE JUST A SELF RIGHTEOUS HACK WHO HAS FAILED MISERABLY AND THE ONLY WAY YOU EVER GET ANY SATISFACTION OUT OF LIFE IS TO “TRY” TO TEAR OTHER PEOPLE DOWN, AND FOR ABILITY TO CORRECT THIS DOCTOR, I DO BELIEVE YOU ALREADY SENT YOUR STATEMENT. YOU MUST BE A LIBERAL,YOU TRY TO SAY SOMETHING IS WRONG, YOU JUST CAN’T PROVE IT!, SO YOU CALL SOMEONE OUT TRYING TO DEFAME THEM, YET YOU DON’T HAVE THE ABILITY TO PROVE YOU ARE CORRECT!!

    I THINK THEY SHOULD HAVE A 12 STEP PROGRAM FOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU!

    • http://PLD TomD

      yeah twelve steps off the bridge

  • TIME

    Good Blog Doc,
    I agree with you 100%, I strech daily for 10 minutes after my walk.

  • Anna

    I had my hips replaced 5 years ago. Physical therapists as well as doctors are not very good and telling me what I can do. Can I stretch my hips through Yoga; Can I sit cross legged and gently press my knees to the ground. As it is the muscles in my inner thighs are really causing me problems be cause they want stretching and they are as tight as they can be.

  • http://personallibertydigest CJ Moore

    Could you please reccomend a good book or a video on stretching.
    CJ Moore

  • coal miner

    Very good post,doctor:

    http://www.indoorclimbing.com/stretching.html · Cached page

  • Tinkertweater

    I am a 53 year old man w/circulation problems in my legs that pushed me out of the job market & onto Social security disability & Supplemental security income.
    I enjoy working on automobiles & all kinds of other things as a hobby.
    I haven’t been doing anything like this for a while & itching to get back into this stuff big time as a volunteer for groups like the Confederate Air Force, American Military Vehicle Museum, a steam train museum or 2, Habitat for Humanity, & my own stuff besides whatever else I can get my hands on.
    I am kinda punchy, & if I turn a certain way, I get cramps in the muscles of my chest/side.
    So I decided that I had better start stretching/exercising so that I don’t have problems while working on something that requires me to twist, bend over, stoop, climb, or whatever.
    The thing I like about being a self employed/volunteer, is that I can rest w/my feet up more often then if I were still on someelses clock.
    I am printing out your article for future reference.
    Thanks & keep up the good work.
    GOD BLESS you.

  • http://LEMKEMACHINERYSALES.COM SCOTT LEMKE

    HEY DOUG,

    U HIT IT RIGHT ON THE HEAD… AND I MEAN “IT” FIGURATIVELY. THESE PEOPLE ARE SICK AND NEED LOTS OF DRUGS INCLUDING THE 12 STEP. OH WAIT, MOST OF THEM ARE 60′S DRUGGIES/LOSERS THAT “WE THE PEOPLE” LEFT SLIDE/SLIME THIER WAY INTO PLACES OF POWER BECAUSE WE WERE “FAT AND HAPPY” FOR TOO LONG. TIME TO STAND UP, FIGHT BACK AND TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK!

    GOD BLESS AMERICA…… OR I HOPE HE STILL WILL AFTER SHITTING ON HIM FOR SO LONG. I FEEL LIKE A JEW FROM 2000 YEARS AGO.

    TAKE CARE AND GET OUT YOUR FRIENDS TO VOTE OUT ALL POLITICIANS. GO TEA PARTY!!!!

    SCOTT LEMKE

  • Dianne

    Thank you for this information! I worry about partner stretching, however. By the time you tap out, your partner could have pushed to far and you are injured.
    Different ages, also, need different types of stretches. The classic karate warm up and stretch, for example, is aimed at adults, and young adults. Static stretches is not for kids, according to my research. So, we use safe dynamic stretches and propreoceptive challenges. works well for us. We switch them to static stretches in their teenage years.
    Dianne

  • dusan

    Good article Dr. Wiliy. I am 82+ year old and I am doing my exercises-stretching, in which I incorporate some 5-10 lbs wait lifting, for 30-50 minutes every morning, as soon as I get out of bed.I play 1 1/2 to 21/2 hs tennis every other day. I warm-up 5-10 min by hitting the ball before starting the game. I never warmed-up before my stretching exercises but maybe I will try it. I seldom get low back pain afteer playing tennis or exercising but do get them, as well as some muscle tightining after prolong sitting. I also climb staires, 10-20 floors 2-3 times a week, but that never bothers me. My biologic age, according to Dr Oz’s formula, is 70 years. If that is correct I think it is due mostly to regular exercises. I do admit that I might be overdoing it a little bit and do plan to cut down in the near future. What do you think? Duke.

  • Sharon Davis

    The breath is so important. Breathing through the nose with the mouth closed will help so much. keeps the mussels worm. The breath will taken you where you want to go be patent

  • Tom Lynch

    THANKYOU: THIS HAS BEEN A VERY INFORMATIVE LESSON!

  • SD

    I enjoyed your article very much! It was very informative. I am 70 and get very tight muscles (tendons & ligaments)from sitting for long periods of time. I will begin the stretching. Thank you so much for the help.

    God Bless
    SD

Bottom
close[X]

Sign Up For Personal Liberty Digest™!

PL Badge

Welcome to PersonalLiberty.com,
America's #1 Source for Libertarian News!

To join our group of freedom-loving individuals and to get alerts as well as late-breaking conservative news from Personal Liberty Digest™...

Privacy PolicyYou can opt out at any time. We protect your information like a mother hen. We will not sell or rent your email address to anyone for any reason.