We are often told to stretch by numerous people in our lives; sport coaches, health professionals, school teachers, friends and so on. However do you actually know why and how to stretch?

Stretching has many benefits beyond the thoughts of lengthening muscle. Stretching allows lymphatic flow, this fluid movement through your system helps to lubricate joints and aid in the excretion of metabolic waste products.

Having more muscle length will also improve range of motion of the joints and muscles, and improved joint mobility allows more natural biomechanics and reduces the chance of injury through poor technique. For example, a high number of shoulder pain presentations are directly linked to a muscle imbalance around the shoulder girdle, often caused by lack of muscle flexibility and strength.

What’s the recipe for resolution of pain here? Stretching. You need to lengthen a muscle before you start to strengthen it. When performing stretches as part of a daily routine it is recommended you hold the static position for 30 seconds (no bouncing) at the point where you feel a pull, but not to the point of pain. It is important to stretch muscles in both the front and the back of your body to allow good movement.

A basic morning stretch routine may involve 10 shoulder circles backwards and forwards, followed by each of the following held for 30 seconds:

  • Leaning in to the wall for a calf stretch
  • Bringing your heel to your bottom for a quadriceps stretch
  • Lying on your back with knees bent rocking your legs side to side 5-10x, then holding a stretch at the end of range to each side
  • Lying on the ground and pulling your knee up to your chest one leg at a time
  • “Child’s Pose’’ stretch resting back on your heels and reaching out in front of you to stretch the latissimus dorsi (lats) and lower back
  • Bringing your arm across your body to stretch the back of the shoulder
  • Resting your arms on a door frame (elbows bent 90 degrees) and stepping through it to stretch your chest muscles

Stretching is best used in the prevention of injury rather than treatment. Performing a series of stretches every day can be beneficial to your health and reduces your chances of sustaining a musculoskeletal injury. Depending on your lifestyle your stretching needs may be different, chat to your physiotherapist/coach/health professional to create a routine that works for you.

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