If there’s one thing that you can count on a Continuum Wellness physical therapist introducing into every session, it’s stretching. Yes, building strength and endurance is important. But whether you’re an athlete, or someone coping with the aches and pains of aging, increasing your flexibility through stretching is crucial. Read on to learn more about some of the top benefits of therapeutic stretching.
- Improved range of motion
How far your joints can move in all directions influences virtually every moment of the day. Arthritis or injury can hamper how far, and where, you can flex and extend your limbs and torso. From twisting your neck to see behind you when driving, to being able to move your knee freely, range of motion is crucial for both daily life and for fitness pursuits.
Even if you’re fairly stiff now, doing more stretches each day can benefit you by gradually reducing stiffness and increasing flexibility. One medical study supports the benefits that physical therapy-based stretching can have. It reports that a physical therapy program that included stretches led to a 52% improvement in scores for function, stiffness and pain in knee osteoarthritis patients.
- Reduced pain
When your calves start feeling a bit tight during or after a run, it’s obvious that more stretching is needed. But we sometimes forget the sheer interconnectedness of our bodies. If you’re experiencing lower back pain, for example, stretching your legs during physical therapy can be as important as stretching your back.
In fact, stretching your hips, upper thighs and hamstrings can offer the benefit of lower back pain relief. For instance, a medical study shows that a combination of hip mobilizations and exercises reduced lower back pain in 62.5% of the patients surveyed. Likewise, improving your posture through stretching your torso can provide the kind of support you need to keep your spine from compressing, which helps you avoid shoulder and neck pain.
- Improved circulation
Stretching can reduce stress, but that isn’t the only reason it can benefit your heart and your musculoskeletal system. Tight muscles constrict available oxygen supply, essentially robbing themselves of the nutrients they need.
Stretches help reverse the process. You’ll also get the benefit of increased blood flow to your joints and throughout the body. Good circulation is key to every aspect of health — from sharp thinking to clear skin.
- Enhanced performance
If you’re an athlete, you know that the more conditioning your joints, ligaments and muscles get, the greater your advantage in your sport. Bodybuilders can recover from their reps more quickly by stretching tightened muscles as a cool-down. Golfers can get a longer reach by increasing range of motion through the hips and shoulders. Swimmers can keep their strokes even by perfecting their balance through therapeutic stretching moves. Indeed, there are few competitive sports for which stretching doesn’t offer an advantage.
- Injury prevention
There’s a certain amount of debate in the sports world about the degree to which pre- or post-workout stretching protects you from injury. But few people deny those stretches can contribute to injury prevention.
A tense, shortened muscle is often an injury waiting to happen because it doesn’t work at peak performance. When you stretch, you can also benefit by increasing your range of motion, while improving your balance. All these factors can prevent you from making the types of moves that lead to injury. This can include helping you avoid movements like coming down too hard on one foot, or twisting your back further than you should to compensate for lack of shoulder range.
Continuum Wellness can reveal stretches that help benefit you
Of course, there are plenty of other benefits that stretching can add to your life. Many people enter a Zen-like state as they stretch. Others get a sense of pride from being more limber. When you’re ready to add stretches to your daily routine, consider getting started through physical therapy. Our team can walk you through the best ways to tackle your situation.
Static or dynamic stretching? Pre- or post-activity stretching? Our Continuum Wellness physical therapists can help you learn the basics. We also offer free screenings that can help you get started with your new physical therapy routine. Additionally, our therapists can help you stretch from home thanks to our at-home therapy and virtual care services, and you can start using any of our high-quality therapy services without a doctor’s referral.
Contact our team today for more information about our therapy services or to schedule an appointment.