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Three Tips for Stretching

Muscle pain and joint pain can be very frustrating. We often feel forced to “deal” with the aches, pains, and tightness of muscle and joint pain when it surfaces at work, home, or even sleep for no apparent reason. And when this pain doesn’t seem to have any intentions of going away any time soon, it can make you feel like you don’t have control over your body.

These frustrations often lead us to the internet in search of a stretch or exercise that will help us fight back and regain control over the pain in our body. This search can often also frustrate us more when we realize how many different stretches or exercise exist for your pain. So, here are three tips for stretching that will help you improve your ability to fight back against pain and regain control over your body.

Tip 1: Stretch Above and Below

Tip number one is to stretch above and below the area of concern. Our muscles are connected to each other via connective tissue, or fascia as you might know it, so you can add extra tension to any stretch by stretching above or below. For example, if you are stretching your bicep, and you find that you need to deepen the stretch, try extending at your wrist or at your shoulder for extra tension.

Our muscles are connected to each other through connective tissue called fascia. This fascia is what allows you to create and absorb force from head to toe during regular movements like walking, running, and jumping, or sport specific movements such as throwing, serving, or hitting. Adding to the stretch above or below simply involves the full ranges of motion that we must take our body through in these types of movements and ensures that the muscle you are stretching I capable of performing its job throughout the entire range of motion within that movement.

Tip 2: Breathe

Tip number two is breathe. Breathing is one of the foundational components of health that many people simply do not maximize. When we say “breathing”, we mean breathing through your belly, or diaphragm, and creating an expansion down into the lower parts of your lungs. The reason why this is so important is because belly breathing tells your body to relax by signaling to your nervous system, “Hey, this isn't a fight-or-flight situation, we can relax and activate our parasympathetic nervous system.”

Deep, belly breathing is one of the things that you absolutely need to be doing any time you are stretching. The next time you stretch, think about your belly as a balloon. Imagine as you inhale, you are filling that balloon in your belly up, expanding in all directions. By doing this, you should feel the ability move through a greater range of motion and feel more relaxed afterwards.

Tip 3: Find the Cause

Tip number three is to find the cause. Now, stretching is a great tool to be able to increase your mobility, or even allow you to recover more quickly from workouts. But, if you are someone that is in pain, stretching alone is not likely to reduce your experience of pain. The reason for that is simple: our body is smarter than we give it credit for. Our bodies do not just start having tenderness, tightness, or pain for no good reason. Although you may feel pain in a certain area, simply stretching it is very unlikely addressing the root of the problem. While you may feel some short-term relief, the problem is when the pain returns. “The pain came back" part tells us that something else is going on that is attributing to, and causing, your pain.

If you're someone who is trying to find the cause of your pain, one of the best things you can do is take a look at what activities and stresses you are undergoing throughout the day, the week, or just in general. For example, if you are seated a lot throughout the day, or in front of a computer with your head and neck hunched forward, or spend a lot of time in the car, these activities may be the root of your pain. Oftentimes, people also notice their pain flaring up after certain activities like lifting or when they wake up in the morning. By getting a better idea of when you are having pain, and what stresses are on your body, it is easier to identify the actual activities, motor patterns, or stressors within your life that make you want to stretch in the first place.

Stretching is great but if we are trying to address the cause of our pain or dysfunction, it is more beneficial when added to a comprehensive plan to address the underlying issue. Sometimes if you take a step back and look at the factors surrounding your pain, this can be done on your own. Other times, consulting a health care professional will be a great investment to develop your plan of action. Doing these things will ensure you are finding the cause to your pain rather than a temporary fix.

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