Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thoughts on Stretching

This week I added another stretch to the Self Care page of my business website Positive Massage Therapy. The stretch targets the hip flexors and the front of the torso.  I won't repeat the details here, instead I will give some background explanation on my stretching recommendations.

My suggestions are made in the context of my massage practice, with many clients who suffer from long hours sitting at a computer but have limited time or inclination for stretching at their workplace.  The principles generally apply to everyone though.

Some important considerations are:
  • Compliance is everything.  Stretches not done don't help
  • Do therapeutically beneficial stretches, not just any stretches, or stretches because they feel good 
  • The greatest need to stretch is to counteract the position of sitting at a desk and reaching forward
  • The most important time to stretch is as a break from a period of immobility
  • Frequency of stretching is more important than duration, i.e. many short breaks are better than the same amount of time in fewer breaks
  • People, their employers, and the work culture discourage too much deviation from doing work
In summary, the idea is to recommend the stretches that will help the most and have the best chance of being implemented.

Nota Bene:
Sitting and reaching forward shortens certain muscles- those are the ones that need stretched.  Sitting and reaching forward lengthens certain muscles- those should NOT be stretched.

To achieve better compliance by fitting into the work culture I try to suggest stretches that can be done in office attire, without lying down or requiring any special space or equipment.  Stretches that can be done next to the desk are best.  This is not because moving around wouldn't be very healthful, but that simplicity and brevity make compliance more likely.  Also the emphasis on frequency includes more movement out of the sitting position as well as setting up a particular stretch.

An additional factor helping with compliancy(remember, compliancy is everything) is to approach stretching as a habit integrated into existing routine instead of as an exception.

In future posts I'll elaborate on the types of stretching and stretching in an athletic context.

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