One of the most common questions in a physical therapy evaluation is if their injury occurred due to lack of stretching. Although a very common question, most people do not know that the answer to the previous question is both a yes and a no. An injury can happen from lack of stretching and an injury can occur even with stretching. Continue reading below to further understand why lack of stretching can be the cause of an injury and why stretching could also cause an injury.
An important component to one’s health is maintaining range of motion and flexibility through stretching. Yet there has probably been plenty of times you have seen someone come into either a sports competition or the gym and do a few basic moves such as touching their toes or run in place for a few minutes and claim they are ready to begin. If they happen to pull a muscle like their hamstring they will just attribute it to the fact that they did not stretch long enough or properly. The truth is that even if that person had stretched out for a longer period of time they still might have pulled their hamstring.
Inadequate flexibility may be a cause of injury but it is not going to be the reason why muscle flexibility is drastically changed. Static stretching right before any activity has shown to actually decrease the strength of the muscles, performance output and ability to balance. For obvious reasons these are qualities of the muscle that we do not want to be decreased prior to physical activity.
Static stretching is still valuable, but it also matters when the stretches are being performed. Static stretching is defined as a stretch that is held anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. It is one of the most common forms of stretching and is known to improve overall flexibility. Some ideal times for when static stretching should be done are after a physical performance or a few hours prior to the physical event. Static stretching may also be done on a regular basis, 3 times a week with each stretch being held for 30 seconds. Flexibility is a long term commitment to gain the movement that one desires. Although flexibility can be one of the contributing factors to an injury, it is usually not reason for an injury occuring shortly after the stretch. It could have more to do with the fact that there is not a consistent stretching routine in place prior to the physical performance.
The bigger issue in acute injuries is a lack of warm up before a physical activity. Properly warming up increases the heart rate gradually. As the heart increases so does blood flow which helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles of the body. A good warm up also increases the body’s temperature, this allows muscles to increase in extensibility. Virtually making the muscle able to increase joint range of motion and become less rigid. A good example of this is when a glass is at room temperature the class is not able to be manipulated to take another form, but when the glass is heated it is able to be manipulated into something else. A proper warm up is important because a muscle that has not been warmed up will not have the pliability that a warmed up muscle will have, which may possibly lead to an injury.
The main purpose of a warm up is to get the body moving. Slowly increasing the body’s heart rate and temperature over a 10 to 15 minute period is ideal. A proper warm up could consist of a few components. Or can be as simple as a low intensity activity that targets the cardiovascular system.
No two injuries are ever the same and can occur due to many different situations for a multitude of reasons. One simple, effective way to reduce injury and continue participating in physical activities is to understand the difference between stretching and warming up.
If you would like to learn more about how to properly stretch and go through a warm-up please contact Emery Physical Therapy at (847) 786-2014 or visit our website at Emeryphysicaltherapy.com