If there’s one thing that you can count on a physical therapist introducing into every session, it’s stretching. Yes, building strength and endurance is important. But whether you’re an athlete, or someone coping with the aches and pains of aging, increasing your flexibility through stretching is crucial. Read on to learn more about some of the top benefits of stretching.
Range of Motion Improvement
How far your joints can move in all directions influences virtually every moment of the day. Arthritis or injury can hamper how far, and where, you can flex and extend your limbs and torso. From twisting your neck to see behind you when driving, to being able to move your knee freely, range of motion is crucial for both daily life and for fitness pursuits. Even if you’re fairly stiff now, doing more stretches each day will gradually reduce stiffness and increase flexibility.
Relief in Unexpected Places
When your calves start feeling a bit tight after a run, it’s obvious that more stretching is needed. We often forget the interconnection of our body. For example, if you’re experiencing lower back pain, stretching your legs during physical therapy can be as important as stretching your back. In fact, your hips, upper thighs and your hamstrings can all play a big part in creating lower back pain relief. Likewise, improving your posture through stretching your torso can provide the kind of support you need to keep your spine from compressing, which helps you avoid shoulder and neck pain.
If you’re an athlete, you know that the more conditioning your joints, ligaments and muscles get, the greater your advantage in your sport. Bodybuilders can recover from their reps more quickly by stretching tightened muscles as a cool-down. Golfers can get a longer reach by increasing range of motion through the hips and shoulders. Swimmers can keep their strokes even by perfecting their balance through physical therapy stretching moves. In fact, there are few competitive sports for which stretching doesn’t offer an advantage.
There’s a certain amount of debate in the sports world about the degree to which pre- or post-workout stretching protects you from injury. But few people deny those stretches can contribute to injury prevention. A tense, shortened muscle is often an injury waiting to happen because it doesn’t work at peak performance. When you stretch, you’re also increasing your range of motion, while improving your balance. All of these factors can prevent you from making the types of moves that lead to injury, whether it’s coming down too hard on one foot, or twisting your back further than you should to compensate for lack of shoulder range.
Stretching can reduce stress, but that isn’t the only reason it’s good for your heart and your musculoskeletal system. Tight muscles constrict available oxygen supply, essentially robbing themselves of the nutrients they need. Stretches help reverse the process. You’ll also get the benefit of increased blood flow to your joints and throughout the body. Your physical therapist knows that good circulation is key to every aspect of health, from sharp thinking to clear skin.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways that stretching can improve your life. Many people enter a Zen-like state as they stretch. Others get a sense of pride from being more limber. When you’re ready to add stretches to your daily routine, consider getting started through physical therapy. Our team can walk you through the best ways to tackle your situation. Static or dynamic stretching? Pre- or post-activity stretching? A physical therapist can help you learn the basics. Contact Total Function Physical Therapy today to learn more!