Day 13: Vote No to Stretches
Yes, you read that right. I said No to Stretching! Before anyone gets in an uproar, allow me to explain. First off, I'm not against stretching in all instances. What I am against is stretching when, in fact, it's strengthening that you need to be doing. Stretching is what most of us do in response to muscle aches, tightness, and pain. It feels good while your doing it, but that relief lasts, what, maybe 10-20 minutes? If that is truly the problem and you have a shortened and tight muscle, shouldn't stretching it fix it for longer than 30 minutes?
Let's dive in to a common thing I see in the office. 36-year-old patient presents with a chief complaint of neck discomfort stating their neck has been tight and stiff for the last 3 weeks. The pain began without a known cause and is gradually getting worse. They sit at a desk most of the day doing computer work. Sounds like anyone you know? (Some of you may be able to look in the mirror) Upon doing my exam I check their range of motion and notice that they have a full range in all directions with no pain. Palpation reveals some tenderness along the spine but no significant tightness or muscle spasms in their neck.
So is this patient just crazy and faking their pain? In my opinion no, what we have here is a case of instability causing pain. In this case the body is straining the muscles together to try and create strength and stability. Their neck joints are too loose! Imagine playing Jenga. If you stack the blocks too tightly it's hard to remove blocks without knocking the pile over. On the other hand if you pack the blocks too loosely and then you can remove the blocks easier, but the pile will fall down sooner. In both instances the pile falls down sooner than you'd like it to. It takes a perfect balance of strength and looseness for the body to function optimally.
This can occur in any joint! So the next time you feel that need to stretch think twice about why you might feel that way.
Disclaimer: I enjoy yoga and other stretching as much as the next person and there is a time and place for it, but this is something that I believe is a bigger issue that can lead to big problems if not identified.
Dr. Alan Broering D.C., CCSP®
Eat Well. Move Well. Live Well.