Are there any benefits to stretching?

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It has been my experience that stretching can be helpful at times.   Stretching is something all animals appear to do since movement is important to live. When your back hurts, is it because you didn't stretch?    Can stretching improve how your back functions?   Why do some of us never stretch are flexible while others who do stretch during yoga and other disciplines have to keep doing it? If you are stiff and tight always, have you ever wondered why? Some studies from years ago showed that stretching before athletic activity had a maximum benefit of an hour.   Years ago,
Richard Dominguez in his book Total Body Training changed the thinking within the running community about stretching before running when he suggested that active exercise reduces risk and improves running times while stretching may result in more injuries and slower speeds. Scientists now have evidence that he was right.
Certain tissues will stretch such as joint capsules while we now understand that it's the fascia that controls movement and flexibility, rather than the muscles.  Fascia under normal conditions will not stretch however foam rolling actually releases the tightness in those tissues. A recent NY Times article agrees with much of what I am explaining here as scientists concur that stretching may have no or little benefit, yet there are gyms that offer professional stretching although there is very little to support their sales pitch.

Before exercise, do this

Before exercising, do warm-up exercises instead of stretching.  For runners, I usually suggest gluteal kicks, balancing on one leg, lateral leg raises, roman chair core exercises for lower back and abdominals and calf raises as a running warm-up routine. Foam roll generally improves movement patterns and to improve the firing patterns of muscles.

After exercise, do this

After exercising, minor stretching helps place tension on tissues that are traumatized by exercise which helps lengthen those tissues and reduces tightness later on.  While the literature is not fully endorsing this idea, in practice, it works.

When in pain, be careful with stretching because..

If your back is neck is tight, trying to stretch or self release the joints that appear to be tight and restricted can make you feel worse.   This is because tighness often means strain and actual tightness may be from another part of the body. Foam rolling may be a better one size fits all approach but do not foam roll where is hurts as you are likely to guess wrong. If this does not help, seeing a chiropractor is often your best first option for relief. Often, the reason you hurt is not the area of pain. Book online here. Curious about what the NY Times article says about stretching?  Read it below here.

How Important Is Stretching, Really?

And do you need to do it before and after every workout? Here’s what experts say about when to stretch and why.

By Hannah Seo Dec. 15, 2022 Most of us have been taught from a young age that failing to stretch before or after exercising is akin to a mortal sin. Skip your stretching routine, the thinking goes, and you’ll be more prone to injury, soreness and a generally worse workout. But is this wisdom backed by science? And do you really need to stretch before and after every exercise? “The simplest way to answer that question would be no,” said Dr. Samantha Smith, an assistant professor of clinical orthopedics and rehabilitation at the Yale School of Medicine. But the longer answer, experts say, is that it depends on the type of workout you’re doing as well as your fitness goals. Here’s why. Read more