Functional Stretching for Chronic Pain
Stretching is a great way to decrease chronic pain, fatigue, stress, and other symptoms. Many people find stretching helps to make daily activities and work easier.
Other Benefits of Stretching Include:
• Increases range of motion improving flexibility in joints and muscles
• Boosts circulation and blood flow
• Relieves stiffness
• Enhances posture
• Increases oxygen flow
• Improves balance and coordination
• Creates alignment to the joints reducing inflammation and increasing mobility
• Prevents injuries from occurring
• Improves how you feel
The Body Part in Pain May Not be the Source of the Pain
Often times the area you are feeling pain isn't the real source of the pain. That's why when you focus on stretching that pain area there is no real relief. This falls into the concept of treating the symptoms and not the cause of the pain. It can be rather difficult to find the real source of your pain. For example, the pain in your back could be caused by tight muscles in your legs, or tight chest muscles, or even problems with your feet. When searching for the actual cause of your chronic pain a chiropractor, physical therapist, or osteopath are the best people to diagnose it. But, they don't always have the answer.
However, you can work to diagnose your own pain by stretching the different muscle groups around the area where you are feeling pain. This will also help if you are unable to stretch the central location of your pain because it hurts too much or causes more pain. You also want to create equal flexibility from one part of the body to another. So if you have tightness in one leg stretch those muscle groups until they have the same flexibility as the other leg.
Tips on Stretching
• Stretch once a day.
• Muscles and nervous system are extra sensitive with chronic pain so even if it doesn't feel like a stretch the movement is still helping.
• Wear comfortable clothes that won't restrain your body from movements.
• Tension when stretching should be minimal. Stretching should be relaxing and pleasurable. It should not cause pain, don't force your body into complex positions.
• Move into stretches slowly and move deeper into the stretch with slight position changes while holding the stretch if it doesn't cause any pain.
• Stay in a stretch position for at least 60 seconds that's how long it takes for the muscles and connective tissue to relax and lengthen and for joints to loosen, if this is difficult release some of the tension, or stretch in intervals holding 15 seconds than releasing for a few seconds and stretching again.
• Breath slowly and deeply while stretching it helps to relax the muscles, improve blood flow which pushes more nutrients and oxygen to the muscles.
Decide on what stretching works best for you based on your condition. Listen to your body and try different approaches to stretching. Seek help from knowledgeable and helpful health care professionals including physical therapists, personal trainers, chiropractors, and massage therapists.
If you need help figuring out appropriate stretches for your health condition, a physical therapist may be able to create a customized stretching plan just for you.
Here are a few resources you can check out for stretching exercises:
StretchCoach/Reduce Your Chronic Pain by Avoiding These 3 Stretching Mistakes.
Larson, Ivy. (Clean Cusine/Stretching For Pain Relief and the Importance of Stretching.
Pain Pathways Magazine/The Important Benefits of Stretching for Pain Relief. (2016, Sept. 1st)