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Stretching Tips

November 29, 2010

Stretching is a great way to keep muscles and joints relaxed, mobile and feeling well. Stretching is also simple, requires no special equipment and can be done almost anywhere at any time for free.  For general, daily stretching, here are some key reminders:

  • Pain Is Not Gain. Only stretch to the point of feeling a gentle tightness in the muscle, and then hold that position.  If you start to feel pain, back off.  The whole notion of “no pain, no gain” does not apply to stretching.  And if it’s still painful, even after backing off, then go and get it checked out.
  • Hold It. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds (and don’t bounce).  Bouncing triggers a reflex (the stretch/myotatic reflex) within the muscle which causes it to contract and tighten up – counterproductive to the stretch.
  • Think about it. “Neurons (brain cells) that fire together, wire together” meaning that, through habit, your brain and body strengthen their relationship.  If, for example, you are always in a tense state of mind, then your muscles will often be tense as well and this sets up a pattern of tense brain/tense body.  On the other hand, if you can maintain a calm and relaxed state, you strengthen that calm, relaxed connection between your brain and body.  In other words, when you are stretching, try to focus on relaxing the muscle .  This may sound obvious, but it can also be the most difficult part about stretching.  With continued practice, however, the benefits are well worth it.
  • Make it a habit. Consistency is key to getting the full benefit of stretching.  I recommend to try and stretch about three times throughout the day.  And it doesn’t need to be your entire body.  Pick a couple of “problem areas”, tight spots where you feel a lot of tension building up, and focus on them.

As you probably know, there are many muscles and many stretches.  For some, knowing which stretches work well for which muscles is old hat.  But for many others it can seem a bit daunting.  The best advice I have for learning good, safe, and effective stretching is by talking to a health professional knowledgeable in it.  Then, start out slowly and gradually, working it into your routine.

If you would like more information on pain relief and stretching you can contact your Guelph Chiropractor at Clear Path Chiropractic in downtown Guelph, Ontario.

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