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Posted on 12-22-2016

Dr. Baiata on stretching - "Flexibility without control is not only useless it is detrimental"

I have an overwhelming number of patients who say to me that they don’t stretch enough.  Although those with chronic neck and back pain are constantly stretching their neck and/or back throughout the day.  I would say that most people stretch too much.  Yes, you read that right -MOST PEOPLE STRETCH TOO MUCH.  This statement, however, needs some clarity.

Stretching is overrated.  A lot of the people I see are doing more damage than good by static stretching cold muscles.  You can look to nature for a lot of inspiration and if you watch the way your dog or cat stretches it is brief.  They usually stretch forward than backward followed by a shake and they are off.

When someone is constantly stretching out their tissue they tend to make themselves too loose.  When your joints and connective tissue become too loose you can become unstable.  The body reacts to instability by reflexively tightening the area.  This tightness causes people to assume that the reason they are stiff and tight is because they need to stretch more.  To the contrary, most people need to strengthen.

Stretching is a broad term and needs clarity.  When I refer to stretching I typically am referring to static stretching.  Static stretching is holding a stretched position for a prolonged period of time.  Static stretching will give some temporary relief.  When you stretch a muscle, it will cause that muscle to relax temporarily.  Deep stretching into a joint will give a feeling of a “good pain”, however, this can be particularly dangerous because it can cause instability to that joint and may lead to premature degeneration.

“So if I shouldn’t stretch, what should I do?”  Move your body with control.  It is ok to explore a full range of motion, but stay engaged through the movement.  Warm-up your body and as your body gets warm actively stretch.  Do some jumping jacks. Throw some high kicks.  Swing your arms.  Move your body.

Instead of hearing people say, “I just need to stretch more” it would better to say “I just need to move more”.  We can all use more movement in our life.  Like my friend Devan Kennedy use to say, “Live a life in motion”.  Words to live by.

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