This month, we’d like to address some commonly asked questions in our clinic about stretching – Should I be stretching? How much should I be stretching? What stretches are the best to help me get rid of tight muscles? Why is it that every time I stretch my flexibility does not increase?
Have you ever had a muscle that was so tight that not even stretching helped? Do you ever feel that you get to a point where you are constantly stretching, foam rolling, or doing soft tissue work but not seeing any increases in flexibility or reductions in tightness?
Too often, patients ask us how they can improve their mobility and range of motion despite doing so much stretching on their own. That said, a common theme we see is that the root of muscle/tissue tightness is not a problem of tissue flexibility, but rather a lack of proper stabilization patterns.
The theory here is that your brain decided that a particular muscle needs to be tight to protect your joints, and no amount of stretching is going to convince your brain otherwise. For the brain to allow for movement and lengthening of a muscle, there must be a stable base of support at that joint. To put things into perspective, I’ll use the door and wall analogy. When you open a door, what do you expect the wall to do? I hope you’re thinking that it should stay put to allow the door to open and close properly. Without the wall being a “stable basis of support” for the door, it’ll come crashing down. The same goes for muscles and joints. If the joint is not properly supported, the muscle will not lengthen properly. This phenomenon shows up as muscle tightness, specifically tight hip flexors, tight hamstrings, tight lower back muscles, etc.
With all of this in mind, instability at a joint is often perceived by the brain as a “red light” to movement. This will, in turn, create what is called “neurologic tension” which is essentially muscular tightness caused by the brain (and thereby nerves) putting a hard stop to movement. This is ultimately why stretching does not work because most of you probably have stability problems as opposed to tissue extensibility problems. You are not addressing the root cause of the problem. What’s the word for doing something over and over again and expecting a different result? Oh right, INSANITY. Let’s turn off this loop once and for all!
After reading all of this, you should now have a bit more understanding of how poor joint stability/support can lead to muscle inflexibility and reduced range of motion. At Mobility Plus, we strive to help you build up DURABILITY so that you can move better to feel better – this means giving patients less stretches, and more stabilizing exercises.
If you are experiencing any low back tightness/stiffness, check out the YoutTube video below on how to address that tightness with a simple stability exercise.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can stop stretching and start stabilizing, we’d LOVE to help. As this month’s newsletter is a bit more technical than one’s prior, please reach out to us if you have any questions.
Until next time,