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Hi, everyone. It's Constance with BodyTx. I just wanted to talk today a little bit about the topic of stretching, just talking about what it is, what it actually means, whether we should be doing it, why we should be doing it, just the general concept around stretching.
I wanted to touch base a little bit about the common misconception about what stretching actually does physically. So the first thing is that when we think of stretching, sometimes people think of an elastic band, that we're kind of stretching it, making it longer. Say for example a muscle or soft tissue in our bodies and between two joints, say for example a hip flexor. The reality is that we're actually not lengthening it. So for example, muscles are actually under a lot of tensile strength between two joints. It's a lot of pounds per pressure actually and it would be almost impossible for us to have the strength to counteract the tensile strength at each joint of the muscle.
So when we're doing a stretch, it's actually affecting the neural pathways. So on our soft tissue, in our muscles, at our joints, we have a lot of pain receptors. They send back messages to us when things are a little bit maybe out of the usual, out of the ordinary, something that's actually going to injure you. So for example, when you're doing a stretch, and you get to that point where you feel it really actually maybe hurt, those are your pain receptors triggering to you, sending a message to your brain saying, "Look, something's a little bit unusual here. Pay attention, body."
Then as you go further into that stretch, you feel like you can go further, and the pain is actually subsiding a little bit the longer you maybe hold the stretch. Really what's going on is that the pain receptors are getting numbed down. Your brain is starting to turn them off, saying that, "No, this is actually an okay situation here." So when it comes to stretching, it is a very beneficial thing to do, either pre-exercise, post-exercise, any time really. It's just more you're training your neural pathway in terms of saying that, "Yes, it's okay to have this greater range of motion around your joints."
So I just wanted to touch base on that, that it's not actually changing the tensile strength of your soft tissues. It's more dealing with the neural pathways.
Why it's important to do that is that it gives you the confidence and the ability to feel like you have greater range of motion. So all of us are born with a lot of flexibility, and over time as we age, we start to lose a little bit of that range of motion. It's often because we're not using that flexibility as much and it's not to do with the fact that we're losing muscle lengthening, it's just more our pain receptors are starting to be a little bit more sensitive to out of the ordinary stretching or lengthening or range of motion of certain joints.
So I just wanted to mention that part of it and when it comes to suggestions, say for example by us, if you've seen us for massage or acupuncture, we sometimes offer stretches with our treatments. When you go home, we suggest some stretching. But with it, we also recommend strengthening exercises, and that's often because when one muscle is tight, or several groups of muscles are tight, there often is a feeling or a sense that the antagonist group of muscles to hold a joint in place is maybe on the weak side.
So for example, if your hip flexor is very tight, feeling that way, we suggest that the lengthening of your hip flexor. But we also suggest some core strength exercises as well as some low back strengthening exercises too, because we want to balance out that structural imbalance. Usually it's the result of a structural imbalance and a losing game of the weaker muscles. So they give way to the stronger muscle, and then that's when we start to feel that tension.
So if you have any questions, feel free to ask your therapist when you see us.
And otherwise, you can also email us, [email protected], or give us a call, 587-285-4411.