Guide To Stretching

This guide to stretching can be very helpful while trying to rehabilitate your lower back ailment.

Stretching can be a very helpful exercise when treating lower back pain... if performed for the right purpose and in the proper manner.

What should you be stretching? How often? How long to hold stretch? When is best time to stretch?

These are all important questions that need to be answered in order to get the most out of you stretching routine. 

To go about willy-nilly and stretch without a real purpose or goal in mind is not a very smart use of your time and energy. In addition to maybe not helping it may also hurt you and be counter-productive.

A tight muscle may be tight for a very good reason and any attempts to stretch it may in fact make your problem worse. Hypertonic muscle could be a protective reaction.

Like all treatment procedures, you should have a goal in mind, know what outcome you want to achieve and monitor your progress.

Your goal should be to stretch only the muscles that need stretched without aggravating your condition in order to achieve a normal, pain-free range of motion that will help you improve your lower back condition and prevent recurrences.

What should you be stretching? How often? How long to hold stretch? When is best time to stretch?

So how do you know?

A Smart Guide To Stretching

Follow this simple and smart 12 tip guide to stretching:

  1. Never stretch for the first 72 hours following any sprain or strain. During this time the body needs to mend the torn tissue and stretching a fresh injury will only precipitate more tearing, bleeding, inflammation and of course pain.
  2. Don't force stretching. If there is joint blocking due to arthritic bone changes (spurring or thickening) stretching will not be possible and you risk irritating the arthritic joint even more. Talk to your doctor to find out if this may be the case in your situation.
  3. Never stretch a “cold” muscle. Heat will allow for more flexibility. Stretching a muscle that has not been warmed-up by exercise, heat application. Ultra-sound, massage or myofascial trigger point therapy will resist elongation of the very muscle fibers that need stretched. You also risk micro-tearing of the restricted fibers. Prior to any stretching make sure you either warm the muscles by exercising for 10 minutes prior to stretching. A good time to stretch is after a massage, trigger point therapy or hot tub soak or hot pack application.
  4. Stretch three (3) times per day in the beginning. Once you achieve your desired level of flexibility you can reduce your stretching to one time per day.
  5. Hold each stretch position for 30 seconds. Anything less will not result in the desired outcome of muscle fiber elongation.
  6. Perform three repetitions of each stretch per session. So what that would look like would be three stretches of each stretch for 30 seconds with a thirty second rest between stretch per each session. And you will do one to three sessions per day.
  7. To determine how much stretch or pulling you should feel follow this rule. You should stretch to a point of tolerable discomfort but no pain should be experienced. Once you reach that point of tolerable discomfort any further stretching would be painful and you should not push it to that point. Remember you will not gain anything by trying to hurry the process by stretching beyond the tolerable discomfort point. You will only risk further tissue strain.
  8. Use proper mechanics and body positioning or posture to target the appropriate muscles and to help avoid stretching muscle that you do not want to stretch. This is especially important when attempting to stretch your hamstrings while avoiding any unnecessary lower back muscle involvement.
  9. After each session you should walk at a comfortable pace for 5-10 minutes to help facilitate circulation. Do not assume a sedentary position (lying down or sitting) immediately after stretching as this will allow the stretched tissue to more easily return to its original tight or hypertonic state.
  10. Drink plenty of water. Your body is90% water and muscles need to be hydrated to function freely.
  11. Find a partner to assist you. Some stretches are easier and more effective if you have a partner to help you. Since most of us will need to include stretching in our routines as well a good system is to stretch your partner when needed while you are resting between each stretch.
  12. If you experience any pain while performing a stretch, or your symptoms are worse after stretching, discontinue your stretching routine for a few day to allow the irritation to subside. After your pain has settled you can try another stretch exercise for that muscle. If you want to try to perform the same stretch as before take your time and ease into the stretch over several days. If pain again returns consult your doctor or therapist for advice.

Stretching will take some time; but if incorporated into your regular strengthening program, it will only take you a few minutes more per workout to do and the benefits will be worth your time and effort.

Following the above guide to stretching will help you achieve the results you want.

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