Posts

Stretches not Working? Three Reasons Why

Do you suffer from chronic muscle tightness or back stiffness and ever wonder… why aren’t my stretches working?

Perhaps you’ve Googled and YouTubed every stretch under the sun but still – you haven’t gained an ounce of mobility.

There are a few reasons why all your stretching efforts might not be doing anything for you. It could be your technique. It could be that you’re doing the wrong stretch. Or, it could be that you just shouldn’t be stretching at all!

Let’s go over the different reasons why your stretching routine could be failing you – and most importantly – what you can do about it.

You’re doing it wrong.

Although research studies are inconclusive regarding how long you should hold a particular stretch, most people feel good when they hold a stretch for 30-60 seconds. When it comes to technique, one of the biggest problems I see is not relaxing enough. If you’re tense, or gripping your muscles at the same time you’re stretching, it won’t work very well. It’s important to breathe and move easily into any stretch you’re doing. If you try to force it or push through pain, you’ll likely tense up.

Now let’s say you’re doing everything right (not tensing or gripping) but your stretches still don’t seem to work. Some people (myself included) respond better to “moving stretches.” This is where instead of holding one static position for a prolonged period, you repeatedly move through one or several end-range stretches. Moving neck rolls are a great example of this. If you’ve been diligently stretching and not seeing the results you want, try adjusting your technique. Moving stretches might be a better strategy than static holding. I know for me it is!

You’re doing the wrong type of stretch.

This one could be a little tougher to figure out on your own. There is a difference between corrective stretching and stretching to feel good. For example, let’s say your back is tightening up because you’ve been under a lot of stress or you just did a lot of activity that stiffens up your back. Generic back stretches, such as bringing your knees to your chest or child’s pose, may be all you need to quickly get rid of the general stiffness you’re experiencing.

But let’s say you have associated back pain, or pain and numbness running down your leg. In these instances, generic back stretches won’t work or could even make you worse. You likely need corrective stretches, like what we prescribe for patients in our office. Corrective stretches are specifically prescribed to address symptoms, and are very different from the generalized stretches that are designed to feel good and relieve tension.

You shouldn’t be stretching at all.

Did you know that chronic muscle tightness can be a sign of a weakness? This is a very common problem with our clients. I’ve seen many folks over the years with chronic tightness and discomfort in their neck, backs, hips, etc. – and no matter how often they stretch or massage, it doesn’t improve.

How does this happen?

Well, groups of muscles are connected by this substance called fascia. If one group of muscles in the “fascial line” are not doing their job, a different group of muscles will have to take up the slack. When muscles are tasked with more work than they are intended for, they can become tight.

For example, if your deep core is not working properly, then the front of your neck will often kick in and try to help. If your neck is always sore or tight after a good ab workout, this is what could be happening. Stretching your neck won’t help one bit in this case – because what you need to be doing instead is strengthening your core. I see this same pattern with tight hips flexors. Once people start strengthening their core properly – the chronic tightness magically melts away.

Remember, when we are attacking the correct problem and doing the right thing – our body will respond. If you’ve been stretching and stretching and not seeing results – something is missing.

The longer your problem goes on, the more time it has to develop into a complicated fix.

If you’re suffering from any kind of pain or tightness that is keeping you from doing the things you love, our specialists are here to help!

Just CLICK HERE to request a Free Discovery Session!

Would a Tech-Detox be Good for your Health?

Technology is a huge part of all of our lives, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We rely on digital technology to do our jobs, communicate with friends and family, find answers to our most pressing questions, and so much more. If you’re reading this right now, it’s because you have access to the internet via your computer, phone, or other device.A 2016 report published by CNN tells us that on average, Americans spend over 50 hours per week online. This “world at your fingertips” has so many great assets, and yet it can be damaging to your health if you never take a break.

Too much screen time can disrupt normal sleep patterns and cause insomnia, lead to increased feelings of isolation, and decrease your attention span over time. And from a physical therapist’s standpoint, walking around looking down at your phone or sitting hunched at your computer for hours on end is terrible for your spine!

There’s no need to give up technology altogether – smartphones and other devices are an important part of the world we live in. However, research shows it can be incredibly beneficial to engage in a sort of “detox” from your gadgets and take a break! This doesn’t have to be as extreme as locking up your phone for a week or quitting social media altogether. You can take small strides towards freeing up those hours that you would otherwise spend online. For example, you can turn your phone off in the evenings, for instance at 5 or 6:00, so that you are not staring at a screen for several hours before bed. This allows your brain to produce its natural levels of melatonin, which your body needs to both fall and stay asleep! Another option would be to delete certain apps off of your phone. Is Facebook a big time suck for you? Try eliminating it from your mobile devices so that you can only access it from a computer. That way, you can prevent distraction when you’re out and about this summer. You can also delete those games that you play out of boredom or habit- which will free up your storage as well as your time! It’s hard to put away the phone altogether, because many of us rely on it for things like its camera function and music. If you’re carrying your phone with you constantly, try putting it on airplane mode. You won’t get texts or social media alerts, but you’ll still have access to your camera, music, calendar, and clock (including timers, alarms, and the stopwatch). You’ll be less distracted, but still get to enjoy the versatile functionality of your smartphone.

If you spend a lot of time during the day on the computer for your job, or have other commitments that require screen time, consider incorporating timed breaks into your day every 25 minutes to stretch and/or walk around. Easy everyday movement and mobility exercises really help to invigorate the body, and taking these breaks will ease tension in your back. You can read more about how prolonged sitting is tough on your back here. If your job requires constant sitting, try to stay up and moving when you get home. It’s easy to flop onto the couch after a long day, but consider stretching or doing a simple in-home workout while watching TV. Or instead of devoting hours strictly to TV watching altogether, you can catch up on your shows while making dinner or folding laundry, for example. Pairing a mobile activity with a passive activity like watching TV will not only make you more productive, but it will also save your back from the pressure and imbalance of prolonged sitting!

Do you have a tech-detox tip to share? Let us know on Facebook! We love to hear your thoughts, and invite you to get in touch if you have any questions about your back pain, mobility, or activity level.