Stretching: Priority #1 in Preventing Injury
Whether it’s yoga class or a pre-workout warm-up, stretching has become an accepted practice when it comes to preventing injury. However, even those of us who know better can always find ourselves with less time than we’d like for physical activity, and when we’re pressed for time, stretching is usually the first thing to go.
The result is more than just reduced performance in our activity of choice; by failing to stretch properly, we are putting ourselves at risk for injury. Stretching all of the major muscle groups at least twice a week can help prevent injury and increase mobility, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which is why chiropractors make regular stretching a key part of any wellness regimen.
The Chiropractic Connection to Stretching
Here’s a crash course in chiropractic medicine for you: as part of the normal wear and tear of daily life, as well as accumulated trauma caused by illness or physical injury, the neck and spine are regularly subject to getting pushed out of alignment. Apart from causing incredible back pain, these misalignments pinch nerves that run throughout the body, which can result in pain and reduced function in any or every major bodily system (these pinches are called subluxations).
While it’s not possible to entirely remove the risk of subluxations occurring, it is possible to strengthen the muscles needed to prevent them from arising in the first place. In particular, stretching the muscles in the core, back, and neck regularly—for even a few minutes at a time, two or three times a week—can help prevent misalignments that lead to further injury. And of course, stretching also prevents injury in larger muscle groups. Win-win!
Dangers of Improper Stretching
As beneficial as stretching can be, it must be kept in mind that stretching is only helpful so long as it is done correctly; if stretches are performed improperly, it can pull the body into unnatural, uncomfortable postures that put increased strain on the joints and muscles. By stretching too deeply or incorrectly, you can even damage important tissues or prolong injury. Consult your chiropractor or functional medicine practitioner for counsel on the correct stretches for your physical ability and medical history to make sure you’re helping, not hurting yourself!