Posted by: stgeorgemassage | August 1, 2016

Stretching- The Truth

Everyone stretches, it is an automatic response when we awaken in the morning to increase blood flow to the muscles. The Family Cat and Dog stretches after a nap and like the “yawn” to increase oxygen in our blood stream it is an involuntary response that keeps us healthy.

There are probably more books and manuals on ways to stretch than there are cook books. Whether you are active and exercise regularly or sit at a desk all day, stretching helps keep us healthy. Most Massage Therapists are great at assisted stretching which can help getting to those muscles that are difficult to address alone.
cat stretch
Here are some keys to stretching without doing harm or injury.

1) never do “cold stretching”, Just as you take the time to warm up your engine on a cold morning, never stretch cold muscle. Before exercising focus on range of motion, slowly lubricating the joints then begin minor activity to warm up the tissue. Now is the time for stretching. Do stretches that target the muscles related to the activity IE: shoulders and back for throwing or legs and arms for running (yes arms because proper arm movement counter balances and aids leg extension during running).

2) form is everything and mental focus is key. Bodybuilders use muscle isolation to target the specific muscles they want to effect, the same should be employed for stretching. Mentally focus on the stretch, feel the effects of the stretch- that “hurt so good” feeling of the body releasing endorphins and chemicals that begin a change in the muscle tissue.
cat cow
3) flexibility is a by-product of proper stretching not the goal. Know your limits and don’t force a stretch. This is one of the reasons that “ballistic” stretching is now discouraged. Bouncing can cause muscle tears or strain.

4) don’t hold a stretch too long. A stretch causes Ischemic pressure to the tissue causing the blood to drain from the area. A good example of this is when you press on your arm with your finger and then quickly remove it you will leave a white spot that will quickly change back to normal color. Think of the stretch as wringing the blood out of the muscle and the payoff is when we get the infusion of fresh blood into the tissue. This new blood supply brings oxygen and nutrients to the tissue that speed the recovery/healing processes by stimulating new cell growth.

Try assisted stretching to get even greater results whether you go to a therapist or have a stretching partner you work out with. Remember to communicate what your feeling and keep it in the “therapeutic” range. In my opinion, “No Pain, No Gain”, is one of the silliest sayings there is. Pain means you are doing damage, so avoid that and instead shoot for the euphoric sensation that comes from getting things moving in our body.

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