Anyone engaging in sport or physical activity will be familiar with sore muscles, niggles and injuries. That’s pretty much the classification continuum I use. Soreness a day or two after a workout can either be satisfying; that feeling of tight muscles.. or debilitating if it prevents you training, in some cases even walking!
However when some part of your body starts niggling it’s a warning you’re on the cusp of an injury – and that’s when you should seek help with it. Some people ignore it in the hope it will go away. Most injurieswill heal by themselves -key words here- If Not Further Aggravated. From a treatment perspective though, the outcome measure of improving the injury increases if caught early, before it turns chronic.
Injury happens when a load applied to tissue or bone exceeds its failure tolerance. Genetic factors such as age, musculoskeletal deformities, limb alignments affect injury. So does conditioned status, muscle imbalances, lack of flexibility, hyper mobile joints, poor biomechanics and over-training.
Everyone has a level at which they can train injury-free… for some that’s set low so they are regularly getting injured, others can put a lot more stress on their bodies before niggles occur.
There Is Still No Scientific Evidence That Stretching Prevents Injury
If you know otherwise, please show me your sources! So why do I recommend patients stretch? To address muscle imbalances. Muscles work in pairs and if one is weak, the other will be compensating by being over-strong. Muscles function injury-free at their optimal working length and stretching assists this. That is why I muscle test to establish which muscles need lengthening and which need strengthening.
And S t r e t c h…
Stretching is FREE yet so many people don’t do it, or do a quick ‘token stretch’ at the end of their workout. By some it’s not seen as important as cardio or strength training – yet if you do that type of training you need to stretch to restore muscles to their resting length.
Make it separate session. Add some core work prior to it if you need to make it into more of a ‘workout’. For static stretching, hold the target muscle on stretch for 20-30 seconds. If your goal is increasing flexibility, hold for >60 seconds.
Stretch gently, do not force it or bounce the stretch. You can tear muscles doing that. Try multiple sets of stretching – you’ll notice increased range of motion after your first set.
Static Stretching before sporting activities is outdated and a waste of time – it actually reduces muscles’ power. Instead, Dynamic (quick) Stretching which mimics the activity you’re about to do is a better option. Save the static stuff for that separate post-activity session.
Stretching feels good! Look at your dog’s or cat’s face when it stretches – animals always stretch their spines first too. They know what’s good for them.