Whether it is emotional or physical, stress takes its toll on our bodies overtime. This can cause chronically tight muscles and various aches and pain. In many cases this can be easily prevented with proactive self-care.
One of my many goals as your massage therapist is to prevent pain. While we all wish we could get massages on a daily (or even weekly) basis, there will probably be weekly gaps between your sessions. To keep your body in tune, stretching is an effective technique for self-maintenance.
The Benefits of Stretching
When your muscles tense up, the muscle fibers shorten. Stretching is the elongation of fibers to provide maximum flexibility. Simply put: stretching helps to reverse the process of muscles becoming tight in the first place. That’s why it is so common to see someone stretch before and after their exercise.
However you don’t have to exercise to feel the benefits of stretching. You can do it at anytime and still experience:
- Improved circulation – Similar to massage therapy, stretching increases blood flow and nutrients to the muscles.
- Flexibility – Muscles may become shorter and tighter with stress, and the natural aging process may cause stiffness. Stretching not only improves flexibility, but can also increase range of motion in joints.
- Pain alleviation – This is especially true for those who suffer from chronic back pain. Excessive or imbalanced contraction of muscles in many areas of the body can irritate your back. Stretching helps restore normal length and tone in these tissues, which helps decrease pain in your back.
- Reduced stress – Stretching is considered its own form of exercise and releases those feel-good endorphins.
- Expanded Breathing – As you stretch, your breath naturally opens up, providing more efficient delivery of oxygen to your tissues. Using breathing to encourage your stretch is also very effective.
There are two different types of stretching to consider – static and dynamic. Static stretching is holding a stretch position for a period of time (usually 10-20 seconds). In dynamic stretching, positions are held for 1-3 seconds, and are repeated several times.
Easy Ways to Stretch More
In addition to stretching before and after exercise, you can also stretch before bed to help relax and promote sleep, and in the morning. At work (especially if you spend most of your day sitting), try to get up every 30 minutes and stretch, and walk around for 10 minutes or so.
Those are some easy ways to incorporate stretching in between your massage therapy sessions. Stretching has many benefits and when combined with regular massage sessions, these positive effects are amplified. If you have any questions on a specific stretching technique or activity, don’t be afraid to ask. My main priority is to help you feel your best, on and off the table.