9 Health Benefits of Stretching
Stretching the body provides various health benefits; however, the idea of stretching painful muscles and joints may cause trepidation in individuals with chronic pain. Any activity that could tweak a joint the wrong way or cause muscle pain, spasms or cramps is not something an individual with chronic pain typically wants to try. Consulting a health care professional, such as a physiotherapist, to learn individualized stretches that are safe and recommended can help ease any apprehension. It is important to learn safety tips before starting a stretching routine to reduce the risk of injury.
How does stretching help chronic pain?
Stretching can be beneficial for individuals with chronic pain for a variety of reasons. Nine health benefits of stretching include the following:
1. Increases range of motion
Stretching the body increases range of motion, allowing for more freedom of movement.
2. Develops flexibility
Flexibility is crucial for overall health. Stiffness can impact everyday activities. Flexibility increases mobility and helps delay the aging process.
3. Promotes blood flow
Stretching improves circulation. Blood flow to the muscles increases, and recovery time from exercise decreases. Stretching may also reduce joint pain.
4. Prevents injury
Stretching after physical activity extends the stamina of the muscles and reduces the risk of cramping. It also decreases the risk of future injuries.
5. Reduces back pain
Tight muscles lead to a decrease in range of motion, which increases the likelihood of straining or injuring the back. A regular stretching routine can help reduce back pain and prevent future back pain by strengthening back muscles, which reduces the risk of strains.
6. Decreases stress
Stress can cause muscle tightness. The body tenses the muscles as a response to physical and emotional stress. Stretching areas of the body where stress is typically held (neck, shoulders and upper back) can help relax both the muscles and the mind.
7. Improves posture
A combination of strengthening and stretching specific muscle groups encourages proper body alignment, leading to improved posture and reduced pain.
8. Boosts strength
Core strength stabilizes the joints and improves balance. For people with chronic pain, core strength is especially important. Stretching the abdomen, hips and back can improve core strength and stability.
9. Reduces stiffness
Lying or sitting down much of the day can cause neck and shoulder issues. Stretching the arms above the head or gently pushing the shoulder blades together while sitting can reduce muscle tension, stiffness and pain.
When starting any new exercise program or stretching routine, it is important to take it slowly under the guidance of a doctor or physical therapist.