Stretching: How to get the most from your movement.
Updated: Oct 25, 2022
One of the biggest down sides to a great massage, is that the sense of being relaxed and free to move doesn't last forever. Clients frequently ask their Massage Therapists, what can I do to take care of myself? One short answer is move and stretch! The biggest obstacle most clients face, is simply that they don't have time or don't know how. It's ok, because we teach this all the time and we are here to help!
Self-care through stretching shouldn't be intimidating, take hours out of your day or be an unreasonably challenging activity. It doesn't require any special equipment or change of clothes, so it's the most accessible form of self-care. These are our favorite tips for our clients.
Tip #1 - Listen to your body and HAVE FUN!
Humans are made to move. All that we are doing when we stretch is taking a joint through it's full range of motion so the soft tissue attached to it is challenged to adapt to the movement. If you are listening to your body and moving parts around, it should be an enjoyable experience.
Tip #2 - Incorporate short rounds of stretches into your day
Let's say you have low back pain due to tight muscles and fascia. Find some stretches specific to that area, and take short 5 minute breaks throughout the day to stretch your hips and spine. These same suggestions apply to highness around any joint in the body.
Restrictions in soft tissue rarely happen in an instant, typically it happens over time from not moving through the variety of motions.
Increasing movement is both equal and opposite to losing it, and requires consistency to produce change. Short sessions of movement, spread across daily routines are more beneficial than extended focused stretching sessions for most people.
"Success is due to our stretching to the challenges of life. Failure comes when we shrink from them." – John C. Maxwell
Tip #3 - Find Movement You Enjoy
Clients often ask, which exercise is best. The answer to this is simple, "Whichever one you don't mind doing day in and day out!" Stretching falls into the same category.
If you LOVE yoga, then get a membership and make some friends. If you enjoy nature, then take a walk outside and incorporate stretching with your walk.
The key here is be creative and create joy through movement. If you take this approach, it won't feel like something you HAVE to do but instead something you GET to do.
Tip #4 - Which stretch is appropriate
Sometimes stretches can be uncomfortable. Other times it isn't that bad. In the worst case, you can injure muscles and soft tissue if you stretch too hard, too soon.
Two types of stretching we teach are static and dynamic.
Dynamic stretches, are movements that take a given joint through its full range of motion, stretching restricted tissue along the way. These are performed very gently with an intention of maintaining movement at a constant speed,and slight increase in range of motion. Dynamic movement based stretches can be done when the body is not warmed up. One example would be arm circles.
Static stretches are prolonged hold stretches. These are best for after exercise or a warm shower. One reason you want to do these stretches at the end of an exercise is because of increased blood flow encourages tissue elasticity. This allows the tissue to respond more positively to a stretch and allowing the tissue to lengthen. One example would be bend over and touch your toes.
Tip #5 - Get Specific
It helps tremendously to learn about specific stretches to meet your needs from someone who knows the ropes. There are also plenty of resources available to learn more about what type of movement would be best for a given joint, injury or goal.
At The Body Mechanics, we love to incorporate stretching both into our sessions and into out client self-care. All so our clients can experience the best outcomes to improve their quality of life
KEEP MOVING FOR THE HEALTH OF IT!!
Whether you choose to go take a movement class, seek out treatment with us, or go it alone. The biggest defense against tissue restriction is to just keep moving! Start looking for ways to incorporate more movement into your day today!