Stretching for Everyone
Let’s talk stretching! While you may consider stretching an activity that only Olympic gymnasts or yoga lovers’ practice, rethink incorporating stretching into our own daily routine. Stretching has multiple benefits on our bodies and plays an important role in protecting our mobility and keeping our muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. It encourages mobility by maintaining our flexibility and the range of motion in our joints, without this that we have trouble being mobile. Muscles which aren’t stretched can become tight putting us at risk for injury and joint pains.
What About Stretching with Peripheral Neuropathy?
Peripheral Neuropathy (PN) causes pain in many areas of the body alongside secondary symptoms such as muscle weakness, tingling, and poor balance. Although treatments for PN often focus on pain relief and treating underlying causes via medications, we tend to forget things such as stretching which have a healing effect on our symptoms. Studies show that stretching and exercise can effectively preserve nerve function and promote regeneration. This occurs through the process of increasing circulation, and thus increasing blood flow, oxygen and nutrients, to injured tissues and nerves. The increase of these factors will help to heal, slow or prevent further damage to injured nerves.
- Increase flexibility making movement safer
- Enhance unrestricted movement
- Improve balance
- Works on proprioception (your body’s awareness of its positions)
- Improves gait
- Increase Blood flow
- Flexibility training can help to improve blood flow and circulation which allows for transportation of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood throughout the body, namely to the areas needing it which are damaged.
- Reduce further injury
- Some promising findings regarding stretched muscles being better for injuries
- Promote pain relief
- Reduce muscular tension in the body and decrease stiffness
- Can reduce the severity of muscle cramps
Types of Stretching
Active stretching is named such because it engages the muscles, making them active. It is a stretch where a position is held solely by the power of your muscle. This type of stretching is useful for increasing flexibility.
Example: Bringing your leg up high and holding it there without anything but the leg muscles keeping that leg up.
Passive stretching, also referred to as static stretching is a stretch where a body position is held with some other part of the body or with assistance of an apparatus. It is useful in relieving muscle spasms, helping to heal injuries, and as a cool down to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness.
Dynamic stretching involves the movement of the body, i.e. stretching a muscle group while in motion. It entails moving focused parts of the body and gradually increasing reach and range of movement through the movement. Dynamic also improves movement flexibility. It is helpful as part of a warm-up as it promotes blood flow and engages muscle groups prior to any activity. This provides the muscles what it needs to better perform by increasing power. Example: Leg swings side to side.
When Should You Stretch?
Stretching should be done every day! As with most things in life, the more we do something, the more we find the benefits and as such it is important for us to stretch our muscles out each day.
Stretching should happen before exercise to ensure the body is in optimal mobility and to reduce risk of injury during exercise. Following any form of exercise stretching is important to reduce soreness and tightness (known as DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) the following day. This will help you recover from your work out quicker and ensure you can still enjoy the day after a workout.
After Long Sedentary Periods
Let’s say that you work in an office and sit for most of your day. You will notice that after a long day of work your hamstrings will be super tight and you will feel it when you finally try to get up once again. Periods of stretching in between these sedentary bouts should help to prevent this tightening; and, stretching after will help to reduce muscle tightness overall.
Stretching in the morning loosens up your body and increases blood flow to muscles allowing the muscles to be better prepared for the day. This ‘waking up’ of the muscles via stretching allows them to be loose, making you more mobile throughout the day preventing injury. It is a great idea to stretch when you when get up in the morning whether this is bedside, in the washroom, or even in bed!
Stretching before bedtime helps relax your body and facilitates an easier and usually deeper sleep which in turn will help you feel more rested. So how can you get your stretching in? Well, luckily for you, stretching is something that you can do just about anywhere. You can stretch at home in your bedroom, living room, patio, at work on your lunch break, at the gym, just about anywhere. There is ample opportunity for stretching even in those usually wasted moments in the day, like standing in line, waiting for the bus, or during TV commercials. There are multiple benefits in doing so and you will surely observe them in no time.
Jessica Matthews Health and Fitness Expert Jessica Matthews. “10 Reasons Why You Should Be Stretching.” ACE, www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/6387/10-reasons-why-you-should-be-stretching.
Boly, Jake. “What’s the Difference Between Passive and Active Stretching?” BarBend, BarBend, 21 Nov. 2017, barbend.com/passive-versus-active-stretching/.
“Exercises For Peripheral Neuropathy – Physical Therapy.” The Foundation For Peripheral Neuropathy, www.foundationforpn.org/living-well/lifestyle/exercise-and-physical-therapy/.
“Exercises for Peripheral Neuropathy: Aerobics and Stretching.” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/health/exercises-for-peripheral-neuropathy.
“National Center for Biotechnology Information.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/.
Sabrina Martini is a student entering the 4th year of her Bachelors of Science, majoring in Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge.