Stretching Helps Rid Pain
By Chance Moore, DC
If you have ever watched a professional sporting event, you may have noticed the players doing funny looking exercises before the competition.
These movements are called dynamic stretching exercises. Professional athletics is big business. As such, professional athletes have been adopters of this new way a stretching, which has become the gold standard to increase range of motion and help prevent injury. research backs up the new moves; more studies are showing significant advantages of this type of dynamic stretching, compared to traditional stretching.
What is different about dynamic stretching? how does it work?
Physical fitness can be assessed in four categories: strength, endurance, balance and flexibility. Most forms of exercise focus on strength and endurance. Flexibility training and stretching, in turn, are often neglected. Flexibility is essential to protecting the body from injury, especially if you spend most of the day sitting. Flexibility training not only reduces stiffness in the body, but it also helps the body to pump blood to muscles and nerves. Dynamic stretching helps alleviate the possibility of aggravation or reinjury if you have any musculoskeletal problems. It also helps maintain a good range of motion of joints.
An example of traditional stretching, also known as static stretching, would be a standing toe touch. by bending at the waist, the weight of your upper body elongates the muscle and you feel a pull in your hamstrings. The problem with static stretching is the brain is fighting against the elongation of the muscle; the result is little net improvement in range of motion.
Dynamic stretching utilizes the contraction of antagonist muscles to stretch the targeted muscle. Envision the two main muscles of the leg working and moving together. As one muscle contacts and shortens the brain sends a message to the opposite muscle to relax and elongate. Dynamic stretching enhances the body’s ability to safely elongate muscles. Many movements in yoga and Tai Chi chi incorporate this process.
Some examples of dynamic stretching professional athletes use when warming up require both athletic ability and balance. Consult a physician prior to attempting any of these exercises, and before starting any new exercise program. he or she can help develop an individualized program and provide instruction on proper technique.
- Start by lifting the bent thigh, grasp behind the knee. Slowly straighten the lower leg. Let your leg down as soon as you start to feel a stretch. As you lift your leg, you should feel the stretch in your ham- string, or behind your knee. If you feel sharp or shooting pains in the leg or back, stop! be gentle; do not push through pain; this stretching, like any exercise, can be harmful if done too vigorously. repeat slowly 10-20 times, 1-3 times per day.
- Toe-touch. Standing straight up, hold your arms out directly in front of you and walk forward, kicking your legs up and trying to touch your toes to your hands without lowering your arms. repeat 10-20 times for each leg.
- Inverted toe-touch. Standing straight up, lean forward and reach your arms down to the ground while you lift your right leg behind you.
- Keep your back straight and return to start. repeat 10-20 times on each leg. Again, if you can’t reach all the way down to the ground, simply go as far as you can without losing your balance.
- Knee hug. Standing up straight, bring your right knee to your chest and squeeze with your arms. repeat 10-20 on each leg.
- Lunge. Step forward with your left leg, bending your right knee until it touches the ground. be sure that your left knee stays in line with your ankle. repeat 10-20 times on each leg.
- Groiner. Start off with a lunge with your left leg forward. bring your left elbow down to meet your knee and then your ankle, sliding along the inside of your leg. repeat 10-20 times on each leg. If you can’t get your elbow to touch your ankle just yet, that is okay. you can start with simply bringing your elbow down to your knee and gradually progress to your ankle as you continue to incorporate these stretches into your everyday routine.
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Dr. Chance Moore is a chiropractor at Pain Doctor and has treated various professional athletes and Olympians for more than a decade.