by Andrew Pacholyk MS LAc.
Next to breathing and breath work, stretching is the most beneficial exercises we can do for better health. Done in tandem, breath work and stretching are the best support for easing aches, pain, tension, headaches, tight muscles and unexplained pain elsewhere in the body.
Just as there are different types of flexibility, there are also different types of stretching. Stretches are either dynamic (meaning they involve motion) or static (meaning they involve no motion). Dynamic stretches affect dynamic flexibility and static stretches affect static flexibility (and dynamic flexibility to some degree). When done properly, stretching can do more than just increase flexibility. Benefits of stretching include:
*enhanced physical fitness
*enhanced ability to learn and perform skilled movements
*increased mental and physical relaxation
*enhanced development of body awareness
*reduced risk of injury to joints, muscles, and tendons
*reduced muscular soreness
*reduced muscular tension
*increased suppleness due to stimulation of the production of
chemicals which, lubricate connective tissues
*reduced severity of painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea) in females
Stretching your body’s muscles will actually enhance the healing process. Long, slow static stretching will help to increase blood flow and circulation, eliminating stasis and help to warm and invigorate the muscles and in turn lubricate the ligaments and joints.
One good over all stretch for your body is to lie on the floor and gently bring your knees up to your chest. Once there, put a little pressure on your knees with two hands. Gently raise your head up toward the knees. Breath, in, out, in out…..slowly. Stretch, then relax. Repeat.
Another good stretching series for pain is to stretch the opposing (opposite) muscle group. For example, lower back pain often points to tight psoas muscles in the front of the legs (hips).
The Upper Arm: If you are having pain int the biceps, then stretching the triceps can help relieve pain.
Shoulder and Upper Back: If you are experiencing pain in the deltoids then, stretching the latissimus dorsi will help pain.
Upper Chest and Upper Back: Stretching the pectoralis major muscles will help relieve pain that you are experiencing in the trapezius/rhomboid muscle groups.
Lower Back and Stomach: Pain in the lower back or erector spinae can benefit from stretching the abdominal muscles. Hip (Flexion and Extension): Iliopsoas is often the culprit with lower back, and sacrum pain. Stretching and strengthening the gluteus maximus can help relieve this. The Hip (moving leg out to side): Hip Adductor is often a problem because of the frequent movement this muscle endures. Stretching the gluteus medius, helps improve this pain.
Thigh (extension and flexion of the knee): Quadriceps are the large muscles in the front of the upper leg. The opposing muscles are the hamstrings. Stretching the quads can help relieve pain in the back of the legs and visa versa. Lower Leg (standing, running): Tibialis Anterior or shin pain can also benefit by stretching the calves or gastrocnemius.
These are several examples on how stretching can help relieve pain situations.