Have you ever been to a sporting event and watched athletes stretch before and after the game? Is there a purpose for their stretching? Is it as beneficial as experts say it is? In this week’s blog, we will explain the importance of stretching, briefly discuss different types of stretching, and share stretches we recommend for a healthy spine.
Why is Stretching Important?
Stretching is a physical activity that involves gently elongating and extending muscles and soft tissue. Stretching is important and should be performed daily regardless of an injury or not. Stretching should be done in situations including before and after a workout, when an injury is sustained, and each morning before getting out of bed. You should stretch before getting out of bed every morning? Yes. The average person should sleep 6-8 hours a night. When you’re in a prolonged lying position, muscles and joints become stiff which can increase risks of low back pain in the morning. Stretching for 5 minutes every morning stimulates blood flow through the muscles, therefore, reducing risks of injury.
What Are the Benefits of Stretching?
Stretching daily facilitates spinal health benefits and positive movement patterns. Below is a list of health benefits from daily stretching:
- Improved flexibility and range of motion
- Enhanced circulation and blood flow to the muscles.
- Reduced muscle tension and stress.
- Enhanced athletic performance by preparing muscles for activity.
- Potential for injury prevention by maintaining good muscle and joint health.
- Improved posture and body awareness.
Different Types of Beneficial Stretching
There are six different types of beneficial stretching. Each has its specific purpose and should be used at the appropriate times. The following list includes each stretch with a brief description:
- Static Stretching
This is the most common type of stretching when a stretch is held for approximately 15-60 seconds. It is usually performed during cool downs, and it helps improve flexibility and gradually lengthens the muscles.
- Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretches involve moving parts of the body through a full range of motion. These are often used as warm-up exercises before physical activities to increase blood flow and prepare the muscles for movement.
- Ballistic Stretching
This type of stretching involves using momentum to force a muscle into an extended position. It’s considered riskier than other methods and is not recommended for most people due to the potential for injury.
- PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) Stretching:
PNF techniques involve a combination of contracting and relaxing muscles. This method is often done with a partner and can lead to rapid gains in flexibility.
- Active Stretching
Active stretching uses the strength of opposing muscles to stretch the target muscle. It’s done without external assistance or added force.
- Passive Stretching
Passive stretching requires external assistance, such as a partner, gravity, or a prop like a strap or wall, to hold you in a stretched position.
NOTE: There is a condition known as overstretching. Stretching for too long or exceeding flexibility limitations can cause injury. When stretching, start gradually and increase resistance over time. Light stretching is better than not stretching at all.
What Stretches Are Beneficial for Spine Health?
There are many different stretches that are beneficial for spine health. Some are simple to perform, and others are more complex. We recommend performing simple stretches to prevent injury, reduce pain, increase flexibility, and promote positive spinal curvatures. Below is a list of the common neck, thoracic and lower back stretches we recommend.
- Chin Tucks
- Side Bends (With or without resistance)
- Flexion, extension, rotation movements (with or without resistance)
- Cat-Cow Exercise
- Wall Angel
- Foam Roller Thoracic Extension
Low Back Stretches
- Child’s Pose
- Supine Twist
- Knee-to-Chest (One Leg or Bilateral)
- Supine Figure 4 Stretch
- Hamstring Assisted Stretch
- Wall Lunge (Calf Stretch)
- Calf Raise Stretch (Supported on steps)
Note that these are just a few of many stretches that can help manage pain, increase flexibility, improve posture, and positively influence spinal curvatures. We chose these stretches because they are easy to do and can be done by yourself or assisted by someone else. Performing these stretches twice a day is beneficial to your health.
For more information or questions about beneficial stretching, please call us at (724) 547-3377 and view our website at www.drlarrywilkinsspinalcare.com for more content.
Yours In Health,
Larry E. Wilkins, DC
Brian M. Steinert, DC