In this blog, I’ll review why stretching is good for our bodies and how you can do some healthy stretching to reduce chronic pain. Please keep reading for my tips on How to Stretch to Reduce Pain.
How To Stretch To Reduce Pain
When Quigley, my Australian Shepherd, wakes up in the morning or after a nap, he stretches his front legs long and slow as he lowers his shoulders to the floor and lifts his behind into the air; and then he stands up and gives a short howl that signals the stretch is complete and satisfying. He really knows how to s-t-r-e-t-c-h. Instinctually he senses that his fluffy merle body will feel better after a long stretch and bow. We humans also instinctually know our bodies and what they need, but chronic pain and constant daily distractions disrupt the mind-body connection. Hence, we often forget to pay attention and do what’s best for ourselves.
Chronic pain complicates things we didn’t think about before. We might live in fear of moving, find it painful to stretch at first or are overwhelmed with taking on physical projects. Physical Therapists see this often in patients who live with chronic pain. And they are trained to help us learn safe ways to move that also improve our mobility and build strength.
Our pets remind us how to stretch to reduce pain
Why Stretching is Important
Harvard Health tells us why: “Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible.” Stretching gets the blood flowing to soft tissues and organs, improves flexibility, and relieves muscle tension. Stretching also helps us maintain a good range of motion in our joints. But first, don’t do sustained stretches when your muscles are cold or shortened from sleep or sitting. Cold muscles don’t really like to be awakened with a sudden demand to stretch long or move quickly.
Proper Stretching is Key
Mayo Clinic advises against doing stretches as a warmup. “You may hurt yourself if you stretch cold muscles. Before stretching, warm up with light walking, jogging, or biking at low intensity for five to ten minutes. Even better, stretch after your workout when your muscles are warm.”
Start with a brief warmup—a short walk, ride on your stationary bike, even walk in place with arms swinging—then stretch the parts of your body that need relief while breathing deeply. After your workout is a great time to put some long, slow stretches on those warmed-up muscles. Mayo Clinic shows you how.
“A quick way to get rid of the buildup of tension and activate the parasympathetic nervous system is to stretch and breathe deeply.”
—John B Arden, PhD, Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way To a Better Life
But Stretching is Boring!
If you think stretching is boring, try combining your stretching time with listening to an audiobook or music or while meditating, depending on your mood. Over time, once you have established a routine including stretching, you will find that skipping your stretching is a little like not eating—you’ll miss it. Your goal for stretching can increase in small increments. This makes it doable and brings increased benefit. Embrace the relaxation and reduced pain that stretching can offer.
Peggy Brill, a Physical Therapist, who has devoted her life to helping people get the most out of their bodies, developed a sequence of movements—stretches and easy strengthening—that require only a floor mat and 15 minutes. Dee Emmerson, Take Courage Coaching’s writer has used the CORE PROGRAM for several years to manage pain and strengthen her core and says she hates to start a day without it.
Whether you already have an established workout regimen or are just getting started with exercise, you can benefit from incorporating a daily stretching routine. Add 5 to 10 minutes of stretching to your daily workout, and you will improve your range of motion, and your posture, and reduce pain. How do you incorporate stretching into your daily routine?
Want even more info on stretching? Try this article from Healthline.com – Stretching: 9 Benefits, Plus Safety Tips and How to Start.
And for more tips on how I use exercise to manage my pain, read the Paradox of Walking While in Pain.