Woman stretching her neck by Rainey chiropractic

Different Types of Stretching and the Pros and Cons of Stretching

Is it important to stretch every day?

The answer is yes. It does help to stretch every day, but for the people who want to know why, I’m going to going to a little bit more detail.

Have You Ever Stretched in Church?

Here I am sitting at church, and I find myself stretching my wrists. As a chiropractor, my wrists are very important in my line of work. When I go for days or weeks without stretching my wrists, I end up finding myself wearing braces, taping my wrists or having to do necessary adjunct support to be able to continue to press 150 pounds of force into adjusting with my wrists at 90° angles.

So I can tell you that if I don’t stretch, I won’t be able to work. And I can’t put a price tag on that. My ability to adjust means everything to me.  But let’s go into a little bit more detail about some of the other benefits of stretching.

woman doing stretch Rainey chiropractic

Harvard Agrees That We all Need to Stretch

Harvard agrees that we all need a little more stretching - Rainey Chiropractic
Even Harvard agrees that we all need a little more stretching in our daily routine.

According to an article written by Harvard Health in 2013, “It’s not enough to build muscle and achieve aerobic fitness. You need to think about flexibility, too.”  I agree with this 100%.  The majority of my patients who come in with injuries have (1) stiff muscles, and (2) they don’t stretch.  I’m not just giving my opinion. I’m basing my concurrence on over 15,000 adjustments to date. That has given me a significant amount of clinical data to make this hypothesis.

What type of stretching is best?

That is a controversial question. There essentially two main types of stretching that are discussed most frequently in the medical literature.

  1. Static
  2. Dynamic

Within these two main types of stretching, there is active stretching and passive stretching. Active stretching relies solely on you. It doesn’t involve any external force. Passive stretching would be the type of stress that relies on some external force such as your body weight, a strap, gravity or another person.

So I want to talk about static stretching and dynamic stretching and when they come into play. I want to give you a general explanation on what they are and really went to use them.

Static Stretching

Static stretching is going to be the most common. That’s pretty much what you were taught in gym class when you were in school. It’s the kind of stretching where are you sit and reach and stretch, or you hold one position and you see if you can stretch as far as possible. For example, you may sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you and see how far you can lean forward.

Or you may stand up and bend down and touch your toes and see how far you can reach. After a few seconds of doing this for a few repetitive motions, you may find that you’re able to stretch further and further. This is a great example of static stretching. This is often a challenging but comfortable position, and this position is held for appeared of time, generally between 10 seconds to 30 seconds. Again, this is the most frequent form of stretching that you’ll see when you observe the general public doing stretches. The controversy occurs as to whether or not this type of stretching is the most beneficial.

The Downside of Static Stretching – Is there such thing as “too much of a good thing”?

If we stretch a muscle too much, the elasticity in the muscle is somewhat like a rubber band. If you stretch out too much a muscle too much, eventually it becomes loose and kind of sloppy. When it comes to static stretching before a workout, you’re trying to ask a muscle to relax before you’re doing the activity.

The problem with that is is that you’re going to have less recoil and you might not have the strength that you need, so when you do a static stretch before you work out very long, you’re kind of giving that rubber band the effect that will make the muscle less responsive. And it might put you at an increased risk of injury because that muscle is not providing the tensile integrity that you want.  Remember, when you warm up, you want to provide strength, power and proper contraction of the joint. This protects and keeps it strong. When you overdo a static stretch, in essence, you cause your body to put more stress on the ligaments.

Blood flow – There have even been some studies done showing that passive static stretching reduces blood flow and oxygenation to the muscle. So let’s say that you are trying to warm up and get ready for a workout. You actually want to warm up the muscle and get oxygen to the muscles. You don’t want to reduce the oxygen. This case, it would be better to do an active stretch

Dynamic Stretching

With dynamic stretching, a person will continue to move through a challenging, yet comfortable position range of motion. This is done generally 10 times. This type of stretch requires more focus and practice. A lot of top athletes, trainers and coaches feel that this provides more benefit than static stretching.

They believe this is because it helps more with “functional” range of motion and mobility.  When you are performing a sport or activity, you want to improve the functional capability of the muscle.  In the office, I have a lot of patients who are not athletes, and they want to improve their daily functional capacity for daily activities such as walking, standing, balancing and bending and twisting.  For seniors, this is vitally important. When these basic life functions are compromised, it can be devastating for a person.

Passive Stretching

When you use outside assistance to help you stretch, you are doing what is called “passive stretching. For example, you could use your own bodyweight, some sort of a resistance band or another person to push against you.

Active Stretching

Active stretching means you’re stretching a muscle by contracting the muscle in opposition to the one you’re stretching. You do not use your bodyweight, another person, a strap or stretching device. With active stretching, you relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch and report rely on the opposing muscle to initiate the stretch.  Active stretching can be challenging, but it is considered less risky and less likely to cause injury. This is because you are using your own strength rather than some sort of external resistance or force.

What Stretches Do I Offer in My Office?

One of the stretches that I do very often in my office is called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching. PNF stretching will take your flexibility to the next level. Technically, it is not a “stretch”. PNF stretching relies on reflexes to produce deeper stretches that increase flexibility.  It’s a  more advanced form of flexibility training that involves both stretching and contracting the specific muscle groups. This kind of stretching was originally developed as a form of rehabilitation, and that is what makes it so very effective. I use it to target specific muscle groups, increase your flexibility and improve muscular strength.

If you’ve been injured, then this is one of the best ways to return your muscle to its original condition. I find this very effective for people who have suffered sports injuries, car accidents, and slip/fall injuries.

Extensive medical research has been done to demonstrate the effectiveness of PNF stretching. PNF stretches have been effective for chronic stroke victims, shoulder injuries, neck injuries, back injuries.  I have included links to each piece of medical literature, citing the effectiveness of PNF in each situation.

Stretching Because of an Injury? Contact your trusted Dunedin chiropractor, Rainey Chiropractic

If you have been in a car accident in Clearwater, Florida, you are a likely candidate for PNF rehab to get your strength, muscle integrity and range of motion back. If you are a senior citizen looking to improve your balance, coordination, and range of motion, PNF stretching may be very effective you.  Look for a great chiropractor or physical therapist who has a great track record and plenty of experience in this area so that you can recover as quickly as possible.

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