The message today is "STOP STRETCHING"!!!
This is meant for the athletes and individuals that have a lot of inherent mobility and flexibility. These people are usually the gymnasts, the cheerleaders, the dancers and the yogis. It's not uncommon to see these athletes complaining of pain and discomfort or tightness in their back, hamstrings, and calves. The first thing I ask them is, "What have you done to help these issues?" The response is usually, "I've stretched." The next thing I ask is, "Has that helped?" The response I get is, "No. I stretch and stretch but I still feel tight." If I ask them to touch their toes, they can bend down and put their palms on the floor. When I lay them on the table and bring their leg up, they can almost kick themselves in the face, or bring their knees to their nose. In these cases, they may feel tight, but their muscles are definitely not shortened.
A big misconception is that when we feel tightness, we automatically think, "Okay, the muscle shortened and we need to stretch it."
If the muscles are not shortened, why are they tight and what do we do about it?
We're talking about individuals or athletes that have a really high amount of mobility. The ones who can bend all the way backwards, touch their toes, do a split, and kick their leg all the way up. When you have all that mobility, it really necessitates a higher level of stability and control.
So what's this have to do with the tightness in the hamstrings, back, or calves?
At Next Level Physical Therapy, we feel that when you lack stability and control, but you have all this amazing mobility, the tightness is your body's way of trying to give you some stability. We help people address these issues and deal with their pain or discomfort. We help them find and gain stability and control in other places, so areas like their hamstrings, their backs, and their calves, can start to relax.
Just because a muscle is tight, it doesn't necessarily mean that it needs to be stretched. Especially if stretching isn't working.
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Edited and published by: Katie Brindley