This past week I treated a number of clients at my clinic who booked massage appointments out of sheer desperation. They were all in so much back, neck, shoulder and/or hip pain due to everything from longs hours spent hunkered down in front of a screen to days upon days of hiking. But no matter how long and intense their pain, when I asked each of them if they’d taken the time to stretch before, during or after doing the activities then knew were the main cause of their discomfort, in every case the answer was a very sheepish ‘no.’
As a massage therapist I spend a lot of my time trying to convince people from all walks of life (many of whom arrive for their treatments with aches and pains that are alleviated by the passive stretches I use during their sessions, and always leave feeling – to use their words –feeling ‘soooooo relaxed’), to stretch regularly. Ideally, daily. But since it seems that in most cases my pleas are falling on deaf ears, I decided that it’s high time post an article on the benefits of stretching.
Now folks, whenever you stretch you lengthen your muscles and the connective tissue or fascia that surrounds them. This of course, eases any built up tension in your tissues, and improves your overall flexibility, by allowing your joints and muscles to move more freely. But wait, there’s more! In addition, helping you feel more loose and limber, stretching also:
Increases Agility. Regular stretching improves flexibility and joint range of motion, which in turn makes you more agile and quicker on your feet.
Boosts Blood and Oxygen Flow. Stretching increases the circulation of blood and oxygen to your muscles, which promotes overall health by enhancing cell growth and organ function. What’s more, partaking in a daily round of stretching can contribute to a more even and consistent blood pressure level, increase your energy levels, and even lower your heart rate.
Helps to Improve Posture. Prolonged time working in the same position (think desk jockeys hunched over their computers) or performing repetitive motions can put added pressure on your bones and joints that may impact their alignment and function, due to the tightness that develops in your muscles. Lengthening your muscles via stretching eases this pressure and helps to bring your body back into proper alignment.
Decreases Feelings of Stress and Anxiety. We all know that feelings of stress cause our muscles to tighten up, and leave us feeling tense and uncomfortable. Taking the time to stretch when you’re feeling anxious gives you a few moments to reflect, loosen up tight your muscles, and will release ‘feel good’ endorphins that will help to relax.
If I’ve piqued your interest in stretching and are looking for more info on the why’s and wherefores of all things stretch related, check some of the links to follow for more information.
Till next time,
Stretching and Flexibility Defined
7 Smart Stretching Tips
Mindful Stretching Guide
Easy Stretches to Do at Work