The quick answer is that healthy stretches are exercises that help you keep your muscles healthy and mobile. Stretching helps to lengthen the muscles in your body so that they can allow a wide range of movements without getting hurt.
There are healthy ways to stretch and unhealthy ways to stretch. Healthy stretches are slow and controlled. They are held for at least 30 seconds to allow the muscles and tendons to relax. The long hold is important to allow the fibers to lengthen. For a muscle to increase in length, there needs to be a collagen remodeling. This occurs best with prolonged stretching.
Stretching improperly can lead to injury, therefore muscles need to warm up slowly. This is more important as we age because our muscle and tendon tissue do not respond as quickly. Some common ways that people stretch wrong are:
Improper stretching can lead to a strain or tear in a muscle or tendon. To learn more about muscle and tendon injuries, this ARTICLE may help.
Throughout the years, stretches have been encouraged before exercise. However, it is important to realize that stretching IS an exercise. It should be a part of a regular exercise program. Warming up a little before stretching can help to make stretching more effective.
Newer research suggests that stretching before some exercises may not be as beneficial as we previously thought. Some evidence suggests that stretching just before running may actually hinder performance. Stretching should not be confused with "warming up" before the activity.
The take-away message is that dynamic movements such as lunges or jumping jacks can help you prepare for an athletic activity and the traditional "static", longer stretching is more beneficial afterward.
Stretching the lower back involves the lower spine, the hips, and knees. Lower back stretches can help to keep the low back mobile with daily activity. Here are the 2 best basic healthy stretches for the lower back. Hold both stretches 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Double Knee to Chest
Lower Trunk Rotation
If you would like to learn more about the spine, this VIDEO may help.
Shoulder stretches can help limit shoulder pain. They can also keep you flexible to reach overhead and behind your back. These are 2 shoulder stretches that are healthy for you. Hold both 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Cross Arm Stretch
If you would like to learn more about the Anatomy of the Shoulder, this VIDEO may help.
Many people try to stretch the muscles in the back of the thigh (Hamstrings). But it is important to stretch the front of the thigh and the calf as well. Here are some examples of healthy stretches for these 3 muscle groups. Hold each stretch 30 seconds and repeat them 3 times.
Hamstring Stretch on the Back
Standing Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch
Standing Calf Stretch
The Iliotibial Band or ITB is a thick fibrous tissue that lies along the lateral thigh. IT Band Syndrome (ITBS) can cause pain in near the outer knee in athletes. This is more common in runners. This may be due to running on a graded road that has and angle that alters the leg position. There are a lot of stretches for the IT Band, but studies suggest that t is very difficult to actually stretch the ITB. Muscles that attach to the ITB can be stretched and this can take pressure off of the IT Band.
This stretch can help loosen the muscles around the IT Band. Hold 30 seconds, 3 times (you are stretching the side with the hip closest to the wall).
Using a foam roller can be beneficial to break down adhesions in the IT Band and the muscle tissue beneath it. Try rolling out the ITB on a foam roller for 2 to 3 minutes.
These basic stretches are meant for prolonged holds to increase mobility and flexibility. If you have any pain, stop immediately and see your physician or physical therapist.
The Jacksonville Orthopedic institute is Northeast Florida's Leader in treating muscle and tendon issues. If you have concerns, we can help. We offer ASAP Fracture and Injury Services so that you can be seen quickly. We also offer Telemedicine visits.
To schedule an appointment, call JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.