General | October 8, 2020

To Stretch Or Not To Stretch?

By Dr Peta Antonello (osteopath) B.Sc.(clinical), MH.Sc(osteo) – Member Osteopathy Australia

The jury is out on this one but it depends on many different factors.
Are you stretching because you feel tight?
Are you stretching something because it hurts?
Or are you stretching because someone told you to?

Static and dynamic stretching are the two most common stretching techniques adopted (i.e. holding a stretch in a sustained position for a period of time, or gently moving the associated joint through its range of motion to achieve a stretch). Both are said to be equally effective in improving joint range of motion and flexibility. Plus it just feels good!

But the implementation of a stretching regime is dependant on what you want to get out of it.

Should I stretch if I am injured?
This is dependant on the injury itself. In some cases such as tendinopathies or muscle strains, it is suggested that stretching the injured structure may aggravate it and be detrimental to tissue healing. Your relevant health professional will gradually introduce stretching to aid in recovery when they deem necessary.

Is the way you stretch affecting your performance?
Static stretching – when completed prior to exercise, this form of stretching can be detrimental to athletic performance in regards to running and jumping as it has been shown to lead to a reduction in muscular strength. Therefore, this may be more suitable for sports involving flexibility and range of motion i.e. Dancers.
Dynamic stretching – has been shown to produce the opposite effect with improvements in strength post stretch. It also mimics the movement you are about to perform. Therefore, likely more beneficial if you partake in sports such as football or basketball.

Generally speaking for optimal muscle functioning we want to have a balance between tissue stretch and strength. Therefore if you are a desk worker with neck pain it is likely you will be prescribed stretching and strengthening exercises to achieve this balance. Conversely an individual with hypermobility may be prescribed strengthening only exercises in order for them to be able to control the movements they are performing through that extensive range. Specificity is key!

Please note, the advice above is generalised and may not be specific to your situation. Please contact one of our osteopaths or other health care provider to provide specific advice based of your individual circumstance.