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How stretching can heal your body

Let's be honest, most people don't stretch. I used to be one of them, before I became a sports massage and injury rehabilitation specialist.


The bigger truth is, most people don't know why or what to stretch. Let's address this here:

Your muscles work best when they work in balance. A joint, like your hip joint, has multiple muscles working together to give support and movement to the joint. For a number of reasons (poor posture, injury, inactivity etc) our bodies get into bad habits and this working balance of muscles can become... unbalanced.

Over a period of time this can lead to pain. One reason for pain is due to our 'tonic' muscles going progressively short and tight. The tonic muscles do this in response to what is called 'faulty loading patterns' . Poor posture is a classic reason for faulty loading patterns. That's not just your standing or sitting posture it's your moving posture too. The other muscles are known as 'phasic' muscles. Phasic muscles respond to faulty loading by going long and weak and they need a different approach.

When a muscle goes short and tight we experience pain and that horrible feeling of a muscle that feels like it's 'holding on', usually accompanied by the thought, 'If I were to run I'd probably tear something'.

You don't need to do 'corrective stretching' to every muscle in your body, but you need to stretch the short and tight tonic muscles. This in combination with high quality sports massage can be a real game changer. Stretching the long and weak phasic muscles is usually a bad idea and a mistake that many people make. The phasic muscles are already long, don't make them longer or you're just going to make things worse. These long and weak phasic muscles actually need to be strengthened and that's where having a specialist design your training program to target the phasic muscles comes in. If you are using a personal trainer make sure they are a good one.

The name of the game is to identify which muscles are short and tight and do corrective stretches and perhaps some sports massage on those muscles. Be very aware though, your right hamstring might be tighter than your left hamstring, for example, so you absolutely must stretch your right hamstring twice and your left hamstring once until balance between right and left has been achieved. Combine intelligent corrective stretching with intelligent functional training and you're well on your way to healing.

(Corrective stretches - Held for 30 seconds and are done to change the length of muscles. Best performed daily).

(Dynamic stretches - Performed to prepare the body for activity not to make perminant changes to muscle length).

Sports injury clinic and stretching in Oxford

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