Stretching Exercises

Stretching Exercises

Article by John Miller

Why Are Stretching Exercises Helpful?

Did you know that vigorous exercise shortens your muscles? Stretching exercises encourage the lengthening of your muscles and their associated tendons to normalise your muscle length and tension ratio.

Muscles shorten during exercise, from general postural habits and ageing and disuse. If you only use a small amount of your muscle length range, your muscle will adapt over time and shorten to that length, under the “use it or lose it” premise that your body naturally attunes itself.

Do Stretching Exercises Help?

By lengthening your muscles via stretching, you promote flexibility and your ability to have a full range of motion about your joints.

Studies comparing a warm-up that includes static stretching with a warm-up that does not include static stretching have shown that although pre-exercise static stretching does improve flexibility, it does not appear to prevent injury during exercise. Therefore, the type of pre-exercise stretching technique used needs to be an active stretch style to prepare you for the high load of muscle activity during your sport, rather than solely for tissue elongation.

It is the warm-up and the use of a dynamic stretching program that prepares you for a sport that appears to have the most beneficial effects.

How To Stretch Properly?

The stretches that you perform vary depending on whether you are preparing for exercise, recovering from exercise, or rehabilitating from injury. It is important to stretch your muscles only when they are warm, as cold muscles are more likely to tear. Here are some general stretching guidelines.

What Stretches Should You Do Before Exercise?

Before you exercise, it is a good idea to warm up your muscles to prepare you for the rigours of exercise. You could think of warming up like a car engine; you want to warm it up before your roar down the street.

The ideal pre-exercise stretching program includes a general warm-up, light 5-minute jog until you feel some warmth in your muscles.  Then, you can perform some slow, sustained static stretches ideally for 20 to 30 seconds. Your stretching exercises should be modified by increasing their speed and power in a progressively graduated order that prepares you for your sport’s skills and muscle demands or chosen exercise session.

By the end of your warm-up, you should perform plyometric or bounce style exercises that replicate your sport’s requirements.

Stretching After Exercise

Use the static stretches rather than bouncing style stretches. An ideal time to do most of your static stretching is after exercise, that is, immediately after your post-exercise cool-down. Allow around 5 to 10 minutes to stretch after exercise, and concentrate on the muscles you have just exercised. Stretching at this time helps restore your muscles to their resting length and prepare them for your next exercise session. In contrast, cool down stretches improve your muscle length and joint flexibility that helps you to improve sporting or athletic performance.

A light static stretching routine (stretching a muscle and holding it in this position without discomfort for 20-30 seconds) can be performed at the end of a warm-up before undertaking a more vigorous activity. Be sure to stretch each of the muscle groups you will be using in your chosen activity 2 to 3 times.

Corrective Or Rehabilitation Stretching

Specific stretching for target muscles that your physiotherapist has identified should be performed daily or as directed by your therapist using the techniques that they feel will assist you in reaching your flexibility goals. Warming up for a dedicated stretching session might involve 2 to 3 minutes of jogging or doing your favourite exercise at low intensity for 5 minutes. Raising a light sweat will indicate warming of your muscle tissue.

Alternatively, attending a yoga class is an enjoyable way to contribute to the flexibility part of your fitness programme.

Stretching Exercise Styles

Static Stretching

Static stretching is considered the safest method of stretching. A static stretch should be held for 20 to 30 seconds at a point where you can feel the stretch but do not experience any discomfort. If you feel discomfort, ease back on the stretch. Do not bounce when holding the stretch.

Dynamic or Ballistic Stretching

Ballistic stretching are stretching performed at speed and prescribed by your sports physiotherapist or elite sports coach. They are often used as a part of your warm-up for sport or training.

Dynamic stretches involve muscle movements that move a joint through the full range of movement that will be required in your chosen sport or activity. For example, if your chosen activity requires sudden bursts of power, such as jumping or sudden acceleration, then specific ballistic stretches under the direction of your physiotherapist or coach may be advised as a part of your warm-up.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Stretching

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation or PNF stretching involves a component of stretch – muscle contraction – and further stretch. This process is usually repeated several times and uses a trick on the muscle spindle reflex to help elongate your muscles

The technique of PNF stretching was first developed as a muscle therapy but is now used by athletes to enhance flexibility. Physiotherapists often use PNF stretching. More information can be sought by seeking their advice in your situation.

Stretching Exercises – Summary

Stretching can be used as a corrective, preventative and recovery strategy. More specific stretching advice can be sought from your physiotherapist.

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What is Physiotherapy Treatment?

Physiotherapists help people affected by illness, injury or disability through exercise, manual joint therapy, soft tissue techniques, education and advice.  Physiotherapists maintain physical health, allow patients to manage pain and prevent disease for people of all ages. Physiotherapists help encourage pain relief, injury recovery, enabling people to stay playing a sport, working or performing daily living activities while assisting them to remain functionally independent.

There is a multitude of different physiotherapy treatment approaches.

Acute & Sub-Acute Injury Management

physiotherapy treatment

Hands-On Physiotherapy Techniques

Your physiotherapist's training includes hands-on physiotherapy techniques such as:

Your physiotherapist has skilled training. Physiotherapy techniques have expanded over the past few decades. They have researched, upskilled and educated themselves in a spectrum of allied health skills. These skills include techniques shared with other healthcare practitioners. Professions include exercise physiologists, remedial massage therapists, osteopaths, acupuncturists, kinesiologists, chiropractors and occupational therapists, to name a few.

Physiotherapy Taping

Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled professional who utilises strapping and taping techniques to prevent and assist injuries or pain relief and function.

Alternatively, your physiotherapist may recommend a supportive brace.

Acupuncture and Dry Needling

Many physiotherapists have acquired additional training in acupuncture and dry needling to assist pain relief and muscle function.

Physiotherapy Exercises

Physiotherapists have been trained in the use of exercise therapy to strengthen your muscles and improve your function. Physiotherapy exercises use evidence-based protocols where possible as an effective way that you can solve or prevent pain and injury. Your physiotherapist is highly skilled in prescribing the "best exercises" for you and the most appropriate "exercise dose" for you, depending on your rehabilitation status. Your physiotherapist will incorporate essential pilates, yoga and exercise physiology components to provide you with the best result. They may even use Real-Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy so that you can watch your muscles contract on a screen as you correctly retrain them.

Biomechanical Analysis

Biomechanical assessment, observation and diagnostic skills are paramount to the best treatment. Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled health professional. They possess superb diagnostic skills to detect and ultimately avoid musculoskeletal and sports injuries. Poor technique or posture is one of the most common sources of a repeat injury.

Hydrotherapy

Aquatic water exercises are an effective method to provide low bodyweight exercises.

Sports Physiotherapy

Sports physio requires an extra level of knowledge and physiotherapy to assist injury recovery, prevent injury and improve performance. For the best advice, consult a Sports & Exercise Physiotherapist.

Vestibular Physiotherapy

Women's Health

Women's Health Physiotherapy is a particular interest group of therapies.

Workplace Physiotherapy

Not only can your physiotherapist assist you in sport, but they can also help you at work. Ergonomics looks at the best postures and workstations set up for your body at work or home. Whether it be lifting technique improvement, education programs or workstation setups, your physiotherapist can help you.

Electrotherapy

Plus Much More

Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled body mechanic. A physiotherapist has particular interests in certain injuries or specific conditions. For advice regarding your problem, please get in touch with your PhysioWorks team.

Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape has a comprehensive array of therapeutic benefits. Because kinesiology taping can usually be left on for several days or up to a week, these therapeutic benefits are available to the injured area 24 hours a day, significantly accelerating the healing process from trauma, injuries and inflammatory conditions.

Benefits of Kinesiology Taping

Pain Relief via Structural Support for Weak or Injured Body Parts

Kinesiology tape is a flexible elastic tape that moves with your body. The supple elasticity provides supports to your body parts without the tape slipping.

By supporting your body part, kinesiology tape can provide you with pain relief and muscular support to help control body parts affected by muscle inhibition.

Muscle Support

Kinesiology tape potentially assists your muscle strength via physical assistance. It also provides tactile feedback through the skin, e.g. proprioception boost. This phenomenon may help both the non-disabled athlete to enhance their performance and hypotonic, e.g. children with low muscle tone.

Swelling Reduction

Kinesiology provides a passive lift to your skin via its elastic properties. This vacuum effect allows your lymphatic and venous drainage systems to drain and swollen or bruised tissue quicker than without the kinesiology tape.

It is also thought that this same principle can assist the removal of exercise byproducts like lactic acid that may contribute to post-exercise soreness, e.g. delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

More info: Strapping & Supportive Taping

What Causes Post-Exercise Muscular Pain?

What Causes Muscular Pain?

You know the feeling… dreaded “stiff and sore muscles” a day or two after you’ve done a little more exercise than usual.

Shortly after exercise begins, a mix of lactic and carbonic acids builds up in muscle tissue. These acids are waste products of muscle contractions. Don’t worry. These acids are normal. To produce “energy”, muscles burn stored glycogen. Lactic and carbonic acids are by-products of this metabolic process.

The good news is that most of these acids convert back into glycogen and are restored in preparation for your next bout of exercise. Pain and muscle fatigue can exist until the acid levels in your muscles return to normal.

How Does Massage Help?

Massage helps to eliminate the irritation caused by these acidic wastes. Research shows that massage can increase muscle recovery much quicker than rest alone.

Why is Massage So Useful When You Exercise?

Regular exercise causes many body changes. One improvement is the increase in blood vessels to the muscles to meet the demand for more oxygen and nutrients. This circulation increase helps to eliminate the waste products and toxins that build up with exercise. Importantly, it can take several weeks to develop improved muscular circulation.

Until the blood supply increases, you will have trouble with oxygen and nutrients supply. This allows toxic wastes to back up and stagnate. You will experience soreness, pain and stiffness. Many exercise enthusiasts regard aches and pains as the inevitable price to be paid. This is usually not true.

What about Muscle & Joint Stiffness?

Massage eases muscle and joint stiffness. Using massage strokes to reduce muscle tension and passive movement to stretch the connective tissue found around joints massage will improve your performance. Massage also lengthens muscle and tendon units to help prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.

What about Soft Tissue Injuries and Massages?

Massage aids recovery from soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains. Tissue repair accelerates by increasing circulation in the injured area. Massage therapy can help speed, improve recovery, and reduce discomfort from soft tissue injuries.

Massage is Drug-Free Treatment

Massage is a drugless therapy. Headaches, insomnia, neck and back pain, digestive disorders including constipation and spastic colon, arthritis, asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome and muscular aches and pains are just some of the problems that can respond to massage therapy.

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