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GENERAL INFORMATION, AIMS, BENEFITS, AND TIPS FOR
  STRETCHING

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Each stretch performed is aimed at easing tension in a region of the body (and with that the whole body) not just a single muscle so when you stretch, remember to make fine adjustments (gentle twists, rotations and subtle changes in direction), feel for the changes in tension in the muscle and surrounding tissues and then feel for their gentle release.


Why Stretch?
The Osteopathic Philosophy and Stretching.
The osteopathic principals of the body works as one unit, that the structure of the body governs its function and good blood flow will assist with well being can all benefit from stretching.

One of the most important factors in stretching in rehabilitation of any region of the body is understanding that one region never works in isolation from the rest. Stretch your arm and it will help with the freedom of motion of your neck, stretch your knee and it will help with the movement through your ankle and hips. The body works as a unit and no muscle or joint works in isolation. The greater the freedom of movement throughout the body the better the function of specific joints and areas of the body (along with better blood flow). Whilst certain stretches are prescribed for injuries, it is always beneficial to work your way through the body and stretch all areas regardless of where your problem is.

Note: Whilst many stretches listed in this website are labelled according to certain muscles, it is just named as point of reference (you are always stretching a region). 

Aims and benefits of stretching
  • Reduced muscle tightness and tension
  • Reduce pain and restriction in movement
  • Increase flexibility joint range and freedom of motion 
  • Improved recovery from injuries
  • Stimulate and enhance circulation both to the muscle directly and indirectly to the rest of the body. This may also help with energy levels.
  • Better preparation for strenuous activities (e.g. before running, cycling, swimming, and competitive sports)
  • Reduce risk of injury (Especially joint muscle and tendon injuries)
  • Greater awareness of your body and its function.
  • General Relaxation and stress relief
  • Improve Posture
  • Improve muscular coordination
  • Stretching generally feels good and can create a greater sense of well being

Tips on Stretching. The Do's:

  • Consult with you osteopath or health professional prior to starting a stretching program to ensure it is safe to perform them.
  • The object of stretching is to reduce muscle tension and create free movement.
  • Set up to a stretch slowly and ensure that your body is comfortable and relaxed as possible. 
  • During the initial stretch you should only feel a very slight/mild tension and each repetition should be a gradual increase in tension from that. Stretch slowly.
  • The feeling of tension should subside as you hold the stretch in a steady position (if it doesn't then ease off the stretch a little). It should not be painful.
  • An initial stretch is held for 10-15 seconds.
  • Concentrate on the feel of the stretch and always make slight adjustments to alter its feel. Focus on the muscles/joints you are stretching.
  • Take your time and breath and relax through the stretch. If you cannot breath rhythmically then you are not comfortable and you should ease off the stretch.
  • Stop the stretch at the onset of any abnormal feeling or pain.
  • Creating your own routine will ensure you complete stretches daily
  • Stretch before and after activities.
  • Remember that stretching is adjustable to each individual so concentrate on what you are feeling as much as the instructions.
  • In some instances a stretching regime may cause a little soreness the next day. If this persists contact your osteopath.
  • Always stretch both sides of the body.
  • Warm up (e.g. walk or light jog for 5-10mins) prior to stretching may be of benefit. Especially before a strenuous exercise.
  • Give your body weeks and months to adapt to changes (do not expect immediate results and be patient with slow gradual adaptation).


Tips on Stretching. The Don'ts:

  • Do not hold your breath.
  • Do not stretch to the point of pain.
  • Do no bounce through a stretch or stretch too fast (see notes below about stretch reflex).
  • Don't stretch when you are tense (e.g. warm up with a light walk or relaxation technique)
  • Don't stretch a very painful or swollen muscle/joint unless instructed by your osteopath.
  • The "no pain no gain" principal does not apply to stretching. No pain should equal no pain.

How long and how many times?

Every individual has a slightly different make up, history, health, lifestyle ect. so as a rule it is recommended that you initially start from a safe and minimal impact time and frequency and build from there (and as instructed by your osteopath). Remember stretching is about feel so while there is a guide below - how you feel will assist in determining how long and how many stretches you should do.
  • How Long? Stretching should be held for 5-10 seconds in the initial 1-4 weeks (depending on the individual) and should eventually progress to 30+ seconds.
  • How Many Sets? Start with 3-5 sets of each stretch on both sides of the body and progress from there. How many sets will be determined by how it feels - if you feel the muscle has stretched to a reasonable limit then stop.
  • How Many Times Per Day? Set a minimum of 2-3 times per day (e.g. morning, at work, and evening) but it is preferable to do as much as you feel within reason and without any discomfort. It is also recommended that you respond to any extended period of sitting/standing with a period of stretching.
  • How Many times per week? You are safe to stretch daily as long as you follow the guidelines above.

The Stretch Reflex

Our body is designed with many primitive protective mechanisms and one of them is the stretch reflex. Our body is full of reflexes that aim to protect us from harm. If we put our hand on something hot we will automatically whisk it away without thinking. There is also a mechanism in our muscles that have a similar response when we bounce or stretch too fast.

Sudden overstretching (or bouncing) causes our muscles to react and counteract an excessive force with a reflex contraction. This can counteract the purpose of stretching which should be a slow rhythmic elongation of the muscle.