One of the most common questions I receive from clients is, “Does stretching actually help my muscle tension or is it a waste of time?”
This questions is a tricky one! There is no right or wrong answer as it depends on the individual as to whether it is beneficial for you or not.
A study was conducted by a Melbourne university that tested defence military personnel with stretching before and after exercise as a means for preventing injury. This study concluded that stretching did nothing to prevent an injury from occurring. However, this study did not explain the actual benefits that stretching has on the body but was only suggesting that it is not a good technique for injury prevention. It is a simple fact that Injuries will and always will be an issue in sport as there are so many factors involved. Factors such as the environment, external forces, internal predisposed weaknesses, equipment and so forth.
Whatever the style may be, Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or just plain old stretching, these various techniques have been used for hundreds of years all around the world. So there must be something to it!
Let’s have a look from a biomechanical point of view. The musculoskeletal system is a masterpiece or intricate levers. If you have a shortened muscle and the full range of that joint motion cannot be achieved because of muscular tension, you have an imbalanced joint causing the opposing muscle to be tight and longer to compensate. Like a heavy child sitting on one side of a sea saw and another child who is lighter in weight on the opposing side, the heavier child will fall to the ground causing the lighter child to fly into the air. Same scenario but with your muscles being the children and your joint being the apex of the sea saw. If the heavy child gave some weight to the light child, it will level out the sea saw creating balance and a whole lot of fun had by the two on the sae saw. Just like the two kids that are now even in weight, your musculoskeletal system is in harmony when there is equal forces on both sides.
Stretching is an always will be a means of relaxing tight musculature, a way of calming the nervous system and a great daily routine that will aid in the maintenance of the musculoskeletal system.
Nic Catterall BHSc Musculoskeletal Therapy