Stretching is one of the best things we can do for our bodies, but a lot of the time it is overlooked or forgotten about as we end our workouts and are completely exhausted. However if you take the extra 10 minutes a day your body will definitely reap the benefits.
Without stretching our muscles begin to tighten and shorten, reducing our range of motion. All of the sudden the activities we do everyday like tying our shoes, zipping up a dress, looking over our shoulder when driving all become very difficult and even painful. Most of the problems we see as chiropractors stem from bad posture, and two of the main factors in developing bad posture are tight musculature and poor flexibility. Stretching helps to increase muscular balance around our joints making it easier to maintain good posture. If you are sitting at your desk starring at a computer for 8 hours a day and not stretching, it is only natural that your body will start to conform to that position. The ligaments in your neck and back will begin to shorten and you will start to take on the hunched-back appearance of a turtle. Shortly after, it is possible that you will start to experience pain in your neck and back and even tingling in your arms. Tight hamstrings, piriformis, trapezius and rhomboid muscles in particular are closely linked to back and neck pain. It is advised that if you are sitting in the same position for a long period of time you should stand and take a few minutes to stretch every 30 minutes or so.
When you can, it is important that you avoid stretching cold muscles as it is possible to tear or strain the muscle. At least 3 to 5 minutes of warm-up cardiovascular activity is advised before stretching. Also you should not stretch as soon as you get out of bed in the morning. First thing in the morning your discs are full of fluid and expanded to their maximum size. If you stretch before some of that fluid is pushed out through normal body movement it is possible to injure the disc. Additionally, you will not be able to stretch the muscles as effectively as it will be harder to reach your end range of motion.
When stretching you should hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds at a point of tension, not pain. If you feel pain you have gone too far! Yoga and Pilates are excellent ways to increase your flexibility.