If you pay any attention to my blog and Facebook posts (or if you’ve ever spoken with me in person), you know how strongly I feel about self-care. Self-care is like brushing your teeth between dentist visits. Brushing your teeth prevents major tartar and plaque buildup, but you still need a deep cleaning every six months. And if you didn’t brush and floss, not only would you develop some serious dental issues by the time you went to the dentist, but your dentist would have to spend much longer erasing all the damage you did to your teeth by not brushing.
A crucial part of self-care is stretching. Stretching smoothes the wrinkles from your fascia, the thin layer of connective tissue that covers all your joints, muscles and ligaments. A smooth, healthy fascia ensures your body moves easily. But when your fascia is full of wrinkles, your body feels creaky and painful.
If stretching keeps your fascia smooth, then you should stretch as much as possible, right? Not so fast. I recommend a few minutes of daily stretching, especially when you first get out of bed in the morning. It helps to wake up your muscles and get your body ready to move throughout the day. But too much stretching can cause do more harm than good.
Stretching increases your flexibility and range of motion by lengthening your muscles. When you wake up in the morning, you’ve been lying fairly motionless for about eight hours. During that time, your muscles tightened and your joints likely became stiff from staying in one position for so long. It feels good when you wake up to lengthen out those muscles and get your joints moving again. It’s instinctual, like reaching your hands up to the ceiling and arching your back after sitting at your desk all afternoon.
Too much stretching, however, can cause your muscles and joints to become too loose. This can lead to injury, such as muscle tears (also known as sprains). And simply over-stretching can cause tears in your muscles. If you’re already injured, stretching can aggravate your injury by not letting your muscles rest.
What’s the right amount of stretching? For most people, a few minutes of daily stretching may be all you need to keep your body moving as it should.
If your body feels tight and sore and daily light stretching isn’t helping, call me for an appointment.