Is Stretching Always the Answer?

Sep 25, 2019

Is stretching always the answer? We know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for all our aches and pains, but how do we know if stretching will do more harm than good?

First situation to consider is hypermobility. If we continue to stretch a joint that has increased laxity, we are creating more instability. The reason it may feel like tension is due to the body’s natural reaction to create stability by creating trigger points in the muscle. So really, if we have this hypermobility, we will decrease the tension by creating more stability and strength around the joint rather than stretching. One test that is used to determine hypermobility is call the Beighton Index. It consists of 5 different tests with a total score of 9 due to laterality. The higher the number the higher the mobility. What’s your score?

  • Elbow extension > 10 degrees. Right and Left
  • Knee extension > 10 degrees. Right and Left
  • Thumb flexion to contact forearm. Right and Left
  • Extend pinky to 90 degrees with rest of hand. Right and left
  • Palms flat on floor without any knee bend while flexing forward

Another mistake is stretching the wrong area. For example, I see so many people that have been convinced that tension in their hamstrings is limiting their ability to fully bend forward. Sometimes this is the case. However, what about looking at the lumbar spine? If someone has a tendency to stand with an increased lumbar curve this results in an anteriorly tilted pelvis. Our hamstrings attach to the base of our pelvis. This excessive tilt results in an overlengthening of the hamstrings. So, continuing to stretch the hamstrings is not going to assist in this situation.

One more for you. You are out enjoying our beautiful trails here in Colorado. As you run along you feel a pop and pain in your calf. It is immediately sore. First reaction is to stop and stretch. An acute tear in our muscle does not need stretching. This could actually make the injury worse. Instead rest for a day or two and a visit to your favorite PT or Chiro would result in faster healing.

Stretching is great. But needs to be done appropriately. If you need assistance in determining if and what you should be stretching, please ask us!