To help the body maintain the ability to perform normal activity there must be a proper amount of flexibility in the joints and muscles. Disease, trauma, or loss of motion in a joint can eventually cause shortening of the muscles, tendons, and joint capsule. For these reasons, stretching is an important part of any exercise or rehabilitation routine.
Stretching can be done before and after exercise or activity. Stretching is best done slowly. Do not bounce during a stretch.
- First take the muscle to a gentle pull.
- Hold the stretch for a short while (approximately 15-30 seconds). You may hold the stretch longer if desired.
- When the feeling of tension decreases, the stretch can be taken further.
- Rest between stretches. Never try to gain too much range in one session and never stretch to the point of pain. It may take several weeks to see results, so be patient. One degree of motion a day is a good rule to follow.
- Relax and breathe regularly during stretches.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
- Gentle, longer stretches are generally more effective.
- Applying heat to the joints and muscles prior to stretching can help enhance the stretch.
- Massage and relaxation techniques may enhance stretching.
There are specialized techniques for stretching which your health professional may teach you.
DO NOT STRETCH IF:
- The joint has a bony block and is unyielding
- Fracture is present
- The muscle or joint is inflamed (as evidenced by increased joint warmth and swelling)
- The joint is excessively lax. The muscle in this instance needs to be strengthened to stabilize the joint
Check with your health professional if you have further questions.