Home
About
Treatments
Getting Started
Testimonials Blog Contact
Call Now
Directions

The Importance of Stretching

Oct 10
low back pain, stetching

Everyone has heard the speech before: “stretch to prevent injury during exercise”.  However, no one seems to explain further how stretching can actually help your body stay healthy, or even that stretching can be harmful in some situations.

The most important issue to know about stretching is when NOT to do it.  The old adage of “stretch before you exercise” is a slight misconception, as it can actually cause injuries rather than prevent them if done improperly.  The only time muscles should be stretched is when they are warm; that is to say, when they have been properly warmed by either mild exercise (or moderate exercise if you don’t live in warm and sunny San Diego) or an outside heat source such as a hot tub, shower, or sauna.  Imagine, for a moment, that your muscles are like a towel soaked with water.  If that wet cloth is warmed up it becomes very flexible and stretchy, but put that same cloth in the freezer and it becomes stiff and brittle.  The same idea applies to your actual muscles – if you stretch “cold” muscles that are stiff and brittle you can cause damage to your muscles in the arena of muscle strains and micro-tears.  Strains and micro-tears can and usually do cause scar tissue buildup inside the muscle tissue, making the muscle sticky and, effectively,  less flexible.  Practically applied, this means that muscles should not be stretched before exercise; stretching should be done both after a moderate warm-up and after exercise is completed.

Now that the issue of when to stretch is covered, now we need to know why.  Stretching, in effect, lengthens the muscle tissue, giving it a greater range of motion.  As we have discussed in a previous article, muscles and bones have a symbiotic relationship and constantly affect one another, for better or worse.  If the muscles attached to the bones in your body are tight an strained they have the power to pull bones out of alignment to the point of partial or full dislocation.  Conversely, if the muscles attached to the bones in your body are loose and supple they can work in symphony without causing any disruption in the skeleton’s structure.  Since stretching can keep muscles loose and supple can prevent bone misalignment it can therefore prevent potential pain; misaligned bones can pinch nerves and cause further muscle discomfort.  For example, if your hamstring muscles are tight (which most people’s are) they can pull hard on your pelvic bone, causing it to shift downward, which in turn may cause the sciatic nerve to become impinged, causing the incredibly painful condition Sciatica.

All of the secondary effects aside, many people don’t know how painful tight muscles themselves can be, and how much stretching can help!  Despite the fact most medical doctors pass off muscle pain as an inconvenience it can actually be a serious, even debilitating experience.  Chronically tight muscles can also become weak and susceptible to intense muscle spasms due to over exhaustion.  In the end all of these conditions can be prevented with a daily stretching routine, focusing on your particular problem spots.  A Chiropractic consultation can help discover which muscles in your body are tight, as well as providing stretching outlines and instructions.  It is also important to note that not all muscle spasms can be stretched into health – sometimes further intervention is required to reduce inflammation and provide some muscle movement before stretching will help – and there are conditions where stretching is ill advised, such as with a disc bulge.  Again, a Chiropractic consultation can clear up the cause of any muscle pain experienced and determine if stretching is right for your condition.

The Thigh Bone’s Connected to the Hip Bone….

Sep 09
low back pain, mid back pain, neck pain

Ever injure your neck and, to your surprise, find you have a sore low back a few days later?  Or may be you’ve turned your ankle, only to find your knee and hip hurting later on.  The explanation is easy enough – all of the bones and muscles in your body are interconnected, and therefore apt to fall victim to a chain reaction once an injury is set in place.

First, basic anatomy has to be addressed before looking at how pain can travel through muscles in the body.  The basic structure of the body is made up of two things – muscles and bones.  Bones provide a rigid framework that protects internal organs and keeps us upright – after all, without bones we would be a mushy blob of muscles and organs, moving at the speed of a caterpillar.   Muscles allow for those bones to move in a multitude of different directions – without them our bodies couldn’t move at all!  Almost every muscle in the body connects to two different bones and cause movement by contracting or shortening its length.  This does not mean that all muscles work by bringing bones closer together, but that all muscles move bones in one direction or another.  For example, if you take your arm and lay it flat on a table, palm facing up, you can see that none of your muscles are engaged.  However, if you want to move your forearm closer to your upper arm you have to shorten your bicep muscle (in the front of your arm), which pulls the bones in your forearm up in the air.  If you wish to press your forearm into the table, moving it away from your upper arm you have to shorten your tricep muscle (in the back of your arm), which pushes the bones in your forearm into the table top.  There are even small muscles responsible for rolling your forearm and hand from side to side!

The most important part to understand about muscles movement is the fact that muscles have to be attached to two different bones to cause movement.  Think about this:  if a farmer was attempting to pull a bucket full of water out of a well he would need to attach a rope to both the bucket and his hands to make a difference.  If he tied both ends of the rope to the bucket it wouldn’t move, nor would it move if he were holding both ends in your hand.  Muscles work the same – a muscle (the rope) must be attached to a origin point (the farmer) and an ending or “insertion” point (the bucket).

Now that we know muscles must attach to two different bones it must be said that every bone in the body has multiple muscles attached to it!  Since bones need to move up, down, forward, backward, and around there must be muscles to provide this movement for EVERY bone that can perform these feats.  Not all bones can move in every direction – ever tried twisting a finger around? – but all bones have at least SOME movement.  If we look at the forearm again we can see that the bones within, called the radius and ulna, have muscles attached to it that can lift the forearm, straighten the forearm, twist the forearm, extend the hand (pressing the top of the hand back), flex the hand (pressing the palm of the hand down), twist the hand, and even flex and extend the fingers!

All of these different muscles, with different origins and insertions, can be a complicated network within the body.  Imagine now that one of these muscles is injured and has gone into a phase of inflammation and constant tightness, better known as a muscle spasm.  In this state an injured muscle with be constantly pulling on the two bones it connects with, causing any ligaments, joints or muscles between them to experience undue pressure and strain.  Eventually this increased strain will cause one or both of the bones to shift slightly to relieve the pressure.  When this shift happens all of the muscles attached to the shifted bones will now experience their own strain and irritation, having been moved out of their normal place.   As you can see, these types of muscle strains and bone shifts (called subluxations) can cause a chain reaction throughout the body in ways you may never expect.

Not all is lost, however, since there are professionals that do expect these things to happen.  Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Orthopedic Surgeons, and Physical Therapists are all professionals that can predict these types of reactions in the body.  Our job is to correct muscle spasms and subluxations before a domino effect happens.  The only way we can do this, however, is if you come in to see us when you feel something “off” in your body, or if you’ve had an injury.  Even though receiving treatments for what may seem like a relatively simple discomfort may seem trivial and wasteful you may actually be preventing the spread of painful muscle spasms throughout your own body.  After all, now you know Dem Dry Bones was right, and the thigh bone really IS connected to the hip bone!