Why is stretching part of massage therapy?

Why is stretching part of massage therapy?

Most everyone knows stretching is an integral part of an exercise routine. But did you know that it is crucial at many other times including when you are not exercising? It is the process of gradually applying gentle force to lengthen and lubricate muscles and joints.

Stretching can be done by anyone no matter their current physical condition or age. It is a remarkable way to improve health without wear and tear, yet contributes to overall wellness.

Why should you stretch, and when should you do it?

Stretching improves flexibility, which allows you to move your joints through their full range of motion. Flexibility is a key element of fitness; it can enhance physical performance and relieve muscle tension and stiffness. You should stretch after a warm-up and/or when cooling down after a workout, since it is easier and safer to stretch a warm muscle than a cold one. Warm-ups bring blood to the muscles and make injuries from stretching less likely. There is considerable variation in baseline flexibility between individuals.

One shouldn’t try to make big gains in flexibility in a short period of time. Stretching should be done gradually over a long period of time and then maintained to prevent slipping back towards inflexibility. Some people will enthusiastically embark on a stretching program, but then quit two weeks later because they haven’t seen any benefit. Be patient and consistent. It takes a long time.  It is very important to relax during the stretching routine. It should not be a rushed event. The “I’ve got to hurry up and do this so I can go” attitude is counterproductive. This is a time to slow your breathing and count to 30 with each stretch.

Stretching Tips

• Stretch at least three times a week to maintain flexibility.

• A session should last 10 to 20 minutes, with each static stretch held at least 20 seconds (working up to 30 seconds) and usually repeated about four times.

• Stretch before exercising or playing a sport to improve performance and perhaps prevent injury.

• Besides a general stretch of major muscle groups, stretch the specific muscles required for your sport or activity.

• Do not stretch until it hurts. If there’s any pain, stop.

• Don’t bounce. Stretching should be gradual and relaxed.

• Focus on the muscle groups you want to stretch.

• Try to stretch opposing muscles in both your arms and legs. Include static stretches plus PNF or active-isolated stretching.

• Don’t hold your breath during a stretch.

• Stretch after exercising to prevent muscles from tightening up.

Proper stretching should not be overlooked as an integral part of every fitness and health regimen. Unfortunately, most people either don’t stretch at all, stretch too little or stretch improperly. Few people understand that there are many types of stretches from which to choose.

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