By Dr. Rachel Herman | PT, DPT

Stretching is a component of wellness that can often be overlooked or forgotten about. While strengthening and endurance based exercises are important, stretching is crucial to help us manage our aches and pains. In fact, many causes of pain and dysfunction can come from muscular tightness.

What is Muscular Tightness?

Muscular tightness most commonly arises from overuse/overworking of our muscles, or from maintaining a position for a long period of time. This causes the normal length of a muscle to become shortened and thus “tight.” Symptoms of muscle tightness can include: achy pain, soreness, difficulty moving, cramps, and weakness.

What are the Effects of Muscular Tightness?

When our muscles are shortened, it may limit our range of motion; cause pain; interfere with walking, running, and lifting; and have effects on other areas of the body. For example, when hamstrings are very tight, it can cause excessive pull on our hips and result in low back pain.

How can Stretching Help?

Stretching is crucial to releasing muscular tightness as it encourages shortened muscles to return to their normal length. Some benefits of stretching include:

  • Improving Blood Flow: When our muscles are tight, they are not able to get the full amount of oxygen and nutrients that they need to function properly. When we stretch, this process is reversed allowing more blood flow and thus relaxation to the muscle.
  • Enhancing Performance: Tissues that are tight are more likely to tear or strain when asked to perform quick motions such as running, sprinting, and cutting. By stretching, we are restoring the normal length of the muscle and getting it ready for action.
  • Increasing Range of Motion: When muscles are tight, our motion can be restricted. For example, when our back muscles are tight, we may not be able to bend forward as far as we would like. Stretching these back muscles will release the tension and improve our motion forward with less pain.
  • Helping Overall Wellness: Life can be stressful and we tend to carry our stress in forms of tension within our muscles, leading to tightness, pain, and often headaches. Stretching has been proven to release stress, which helps maintain better control of our blood pressure, improve immune function, and avoid chronic pain.

If you feel muscular tightness could be contributing to your pain or want more information on stretches that you may benefit from, ask your Performance Plus Physical Therapist or contact us for an evaluation today!