Why stretch? What are the basic rules?

guy and girl stretchWithout regular stretching muscles tend to lose flexibility, so when they are called upon to perform a certain movement it can result to damage to the muscular tissue. Certain sports, work related activities ort even activities that you may do around the house involve movements where muscles are not taken to their full range of stretch, this can lead to muscle tightness and shortening. Proper stretching even for short periods, daily can help to

  • prevent injuries
  • Improve efficiency of the muscles
  • Increase extensibility of muscles
  • Improve co-ordination between muscle groups
  • Relax the muscle and help reduce pain
  • Decrease muscle tightening after activity

Keep the following rules in mind before attempting any stretching exercises
Warm up prior to stretching – a small amount of physical activity or better still a hot bath or shower prior to stretching helps to loosen the muscles and make the stretching more effective and comfortable
Stretch gently and slowly – stretch only so far that you do not feel pain. You should feel slight discomfort but no pain
Hold your stretch for about 30 seconds – the tension should subside as the stretch is held. Breath slowly and deeply and concentrate on relaxing the area being stretched
Avoid ballistic or bouncy stretching – try to keep movements smooth and return to you starting position slowly
Make sure that you’re doing the stretches correctly to prevent causing an injury. Get direction from your osteopath or a trainer
Your Osteopath or trainer can help you work out a routine – maybe you need to stretch daily or if your neck is sore from working at a computer you might benefit from stretching regularly throughout the day.
Make sure that the set of stretches you are doing best suit your specific needs/problem
Do each stretch a few times and as you become more flexible to can increase the amount of times and duration of stretch
Practice regularly until you build your stretches up to being held for 30 seconds.
Stretching in front of a mirror can sometimes be helpful to view your technique.
Stretch both sides (where applicable) to keep things even.
If the stretch is causing you pain rather than a tension stretch sensation, STOP and seek advice on modifying the stretch.
Don’t force yourself into a difficult stretch and remember to keep your movements smooth and avoid jerky movements or ‘bouncing’ the stretch.
Keep a regular breathing rhythm while stretching and never hold your breath while trying to perform a stretch.

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