Everyone can learn to stretch and should stretch everyday regardless of age or flexibility. Stretching does not require fancy equipment or a high level of athleticism and can be done anywhere. Whether you are old, young, sit at a desk all day, do construction work, or drive a delivery truck, the same principles for stretching apply. Stretching should be “comfortably uncomfortable” and doesn’t need to be agonizing and painful. Everyone has differences in muscles length and tension and should stretch frequently and comfortably.
There are multiple studied benefits to stretching that all relate to mental and physical wellness. As you make stretching part of your daily routine you will see benefits that include: Easier movement and increased range of motion, less injury and muscle strains, increased body awareness, less soreness after physical activity, and an overall increased feeling of relaxation. In a study in the journal of physiotherapy, researchers found that stretching before bed reduced the severity and frequency of nocturnal leg cramps and pain in older adults. Other studies have even shown that even 10 min of stretching before bed has been linked to decreased menopausal and depressive symptoms in older women.
So how do you get started? If you work at a job where you sit at a desk all day, start by standing up about every 20 min and stretching you back and legs for 2 min. When stretching avoid any bouncing up and down or stretching to the point of pain, this can actually do more harm than good. When you are at home, or have more free time, here are some common stretches that you can do:
Place the foot of your affected leg onto a chair or step.
Keep your knee straight and foot pointing ahead.
Keeping your back straight, tip forwards from your hips, pushing your buttocks out behind you until
you feel a stretch down the back of your thigh.
Hold this position.
Place your toes against a wall, keeping the heel on the ground.
Maintaining a straight knee, move your body forwards until you feel a stretch down the back of the calf.
Hold this position, and repeat on the other side.
Lie on your back with both knees bent.
Hug one knee in towards your chest.
Bring the other in to join it.
Use your arms to hug the knees in as closely as you can manage comfortably.
Sit down on the mat with the soles of your feet together and drop your knees out to the side.
Press your knees towards the floor with your elbows, increasing the stretch in your inner thigh.
Researchers published in the Physical Therapy and rehabilitation journal have found that a duration of 30 seconds is an effective time of stretching for enhanced flexibility of the hamstring muscles. This being said, you can stretch for longer/shorter times or even break it up into 3 x 10sec of stretching if you are comfortable.
When talking about physical activity we have all heard the phrase “No pain, No gain.” With stretching there is “No gain with Pain.” When stretching is done correctly, it should not be painful. You should stretch until you feel comfortably uncomfortable, but never push to the point of agonizing pain. Pay attention to your body and enjoy the time you have to stretch and relax.
Registered Physiotherapist, Co-Owner of Thrive Now Physiotherapy