The Importance of Stretching

Stretching is an important tool to help improve muscle balance and flexibility. We often use active (client-driven) and passive (therapist-driven) stretching when administering massage treatment. However, it's important to continue your good work at home with self-stretching techniques. Stretching improves blood supply to the muscles, thereby facilitating nutrient delivery to the active tissues, and reducing soreness after a workout. Self-stretching isn't just for gym bunnies though: a regular stretching routine will help you avoid injury in your daily life, too.

Here's a few tips to achieve greater flexibility through stretching:

*Move slowly into the stretch until you feel mild tension, hold for 5 - 10 seconds, and build up to 30 seconds. Perform 1 to 3 sets. Don't rush the stretch. These can be administered after exercise, or twice a day (morning and night) to set up a regular routine.

* If you are stretching correctly, the feeling of tension should slightly diminish during the stretch. If you feel pain, stop! Never feel like you need to stretch to the point of pain: you will be damaging your muscles, therefore doing yourself a disservice. If pain persists for more than 7 days, see a doctor.

*Stretches can be incorporated into exercise warm-ups or warm-downs, or performed spontaneously. There has been some discussion on the subject in recent years, but scientific research has proven that stretching does not require a muscle to be 'warm' to be effective.

*Don't stretch when you're tense: it's important for your muscles to be relaxed to avoid injury.

Don't perform self-stretching when:

*you have strained or sprained a muscle/ligament;

*when joints/muscles are infected, inflamed or hurt;

*after a recent fracture;

*when sharp pains are felt in the joint or muscle.

Following injury, always pay heed to the advice of your doctor. You may be advised to start with gentle stretches slowly increasing in intensity to gradually build up range of motion in the muscle group concerned. Go easy: remember, you should not feel pain during the stretch!

Next time you come in for a treatment, ask us for some stretches to do at home. Alternatively, here is a fantastic list of moves you can do at home, courtesy of The Massage Nerd.