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 assist in normalising 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 to.
When 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 style of stretch, 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 prepare you for sport that appears to have the most beneficial effects.
How To Stretch Properly?
It is important to stretch your muscles only when they are warm, as cold muscles are more likely to tear. The stretches that you perform vary depending on whether you are preparing for exercise, recovering from exercise, or rehabilitating from injury. 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 eg light 5 minute jog until you can 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 the skills and muscle demands for your sport or chosen exercise session.
By the end of your warm up you should be performing plyometric or bounce style exercises that replicate your sport’s requirements.
Stretching After Exercise
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 that you have just exercised. Use the static stretches rather than bouncing style stretches. Stretching at this time helps restore your muscles to their resting length and prepare them for your next exercise session. While 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 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 have been identified by your physiotherapist should be performed daily or as directed by your therapist using the techniques that they feel will assist you to reach 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 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 as stretches 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 as a means of enhancing flexibility. PNF stretching is often used by physiotherapists. 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.
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, help patients to manage pain and prevent disease for people of all ages. Physiotherapists help to encourage pain-relief, injury recovery, enabling people to stay playing a sport, working or performing activities of daily living while assisting them to remain functionally independent.
There is a multitude of different physiotherapy treatment approaches.
Acute & Sub-Acute Injury Management
Hands-On Physiotherapy Techniques
Your physiotherapist's training includes hands-on physiotherapy techniques such as:
- Joint Mobilisation (gentle joint gliding techniques)
- Joint Manipulation
- Physiotherapy Instrument Mobilisation (PIM)
- Minimal Energy Techniques (METs)
- Soft Tissue Techniques
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, just to name a few.
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 the field of acupuncture and dry needling to assist pain relief and muscle function.
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 the prescription of the "best exercises" for you and the most appropriate "exercise dose" for you depending on your rehabilitation status. Your physiotherapist will incorporate essential components of pilates, yoga and exercise physiology 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.
- Muscle Stretching
- Core Exercises
- Strengthening Exercises
- Balance Exercises
- Proprioception Exercises
- Real-Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy
- Swiss Ball Exercises
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.
Aquatic water exercises are an effective method to provide low bodyweight exercises.
Sports physio requires an extra level of knowledge and physiotherapy skill to assist injury recovery, prevent injury and improve performance. For the best advice, consult a Sports Physiotherapist.
Women's Health Physiotherapy is a particular interest group of therapies.
Not only can your physiotherapist assist you in sport, but they can also help you at work. Ergonomics looks at the best postures and workstation 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.
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 individual problem, please contact your PhysioWorks team.
What Are The Ideal Core Exercises?Your deep core stability muscles retraining uses specific low-level activation exercises. While a very skilled physiotherapist who has training in deep core activation can observe and palpate for the correct muscle contraction, the best way is to see them working on a real-time ultrasound scan. Real-Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy guidance allows you to see how your muscles are contracting in real-time. This visual feedback will enable you to correct your specific deep core muscles inside your stomach, lower back, and pelvic floor as you attempt to contract those muscles.
Beware of “Core Stability” Exercises!The fitness industry is full of fitness instructors who profess to know how to activate your core stability muscles. Unfortunately, the wrong core exercises will do you harm. Most progress your core exercises far too quickly and bypass these critical muscles to strengthen your outer abdominal muscles further and leave your deep core muscles weak. Research evidence has found that this renders you vulnerable to lower back pain and injury.
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain is often the result of having weak stabilising muscles supporting your joints. Without strong support, your joints simply collapse. Your bony skeletons don't stand up by themselves. The bones are held upright by efficient, supportive muscles that work across every joint in your body.
Research has shown us that pain causes these supportive muscles (known as your "stabilisers" or "inner core stability" muscles) to stop working. Research on sufferers of lower back pain has found that these muscles stop working every time you experience back pain.
Even worse, in most cases, these muscles don't automatically start working again when your pain goes. They need to be deliberately re-started by your brain.
How Can You Reactivate Your Core Stability Muscles?
There are several ways to reactivate your core stability muscles. One of the most effective is to use a Swiss Exercise Ball. Usually, some simple Exercise Ball exercises can often automatically 'kick start' these stabilising muscles.
Your physiotherapist is an expert at the reactivation techniques of these stabilising muscles. For more advice, please contact your physiotherapist. Alternatively, you can download or eBook on Back Pain Rehabilitation using a Swiss Exercise Ball.
How Does a Swiss Exercise Ball Eliminate Pain?
Your Exercise Ball is an unstable surface. When you sit or exercise upon one of these balls, your body will automatically recruit your natural balance reactions. One of the critical most components of your balance reaction system is the activation of your stabilising muscles. With repeated use over just a few days, your stabilising muscles will automatically start working again in most cases.
Researchers have discovered that by merely activating the inner core stability muscles, you have two to three times less likelihood of recurring lower back pain.
What Can You Do?
If you want to fix your back pain, you can do something. The Exercise Ball could be just the solution you need to avoid future bouts of lower back pain.