Targeted Stretching (Article 3 of 5)
Stretching can be great, but it can also make existing injuries worse or even bring about new ones!
The key to making stretching work for you is knowing which stretches you need to be working on… and just because a muscle feels tight, that doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be stretched.
For example, many people stretch the hamstrings because they feel tight and they think the hamstrings are limiting their flexibility…
the fact is, most of the time the hamstrings are "tight" because they are constantly being pulled / lengthened due to muscle imbalances that tip the pelvis forward.
Below is a scary attempt of artwork to show you visually what we are talking about:
As you can, when the pelvis tips forward the hamstrings get pulled upward and are constantly held in a stretched position…
And this is why millions of people can stretch their hamstrings every freakin day and never make any improvement in their flexibility….
Are you one of those people?
If you are, you need to stop stretching your hamstrings and find out exactly which muscles you need to be targeting by reading the rest of this article…
Not only does this forward tipping of the pelvis (which is caused by muscle imbalances) keep the hamstrings tight and make it very difficult to make improvements in the muscles flexibility, but it also leads to the following:
increased stress / wear and tear from the ankles all the way up the spine
For example, the forward tipping of the pelvis places uneven pressure on the ankle, knee and hip joints and also many of the vertebrae in the spine.
weakens the hamstrings, inhibits normal functioning and increases the likelihood of hamstring pulls
When the hamstrings are constantly being strained because of the muscle imbalances, the muscle is weak, not able to function as it normally would, prone to injury and without correcting the muscle imbalance recover can take up to 9 months to a year, or longer!
creates excess curvature in the lower and middle spine
This tipping of the pelvis places excessive amounts of abnormal stress on the muscles, vertebrae and discs in the lower and mid spine and this sets you up for potential injuries to the muscles of the lower and middle back…
Plus, it also causes the discs between your vertebrae to wear down and deteriorate much faster than they normally would and this sets you up for degenerative, bulging, protruding and herniated discs along with numerous other spinal conditions like arthritis, spinal stenosis, and the oh so popular sciatica!
This hamstring example is just one of many… muscle imbalances are responsible for nearly every ache, pain, injury and condition out there!
Here are a few more examples of injuries / conditions that are caused by muscle imbalances and can easily be prevented and/or eliminated with targeted stretches and exercises:
- shoulder injuries (rotator cuff)
- upper back and neck pain
- elbow and wrist pain (carpal tunnel, tennis/golfer/baseball elbow, etc)
- knee pain (runners knee, chondromalacia, ligament tears, etc)
- hip pain (IT band syndrome, bursitis, etc)
- ankle pain (Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, etc)
All of these conditions are caused by muscle imbalances and will NOT go away unless you work towards correcting the imbalances… and the only way to know for sure which imbalances are causing your pain or injury is to do a series of physical assessments like the ones covered in our Lose the Back Pain Video which is designed for anyone suffering from back pain or sciatica.
What the heck is a targeted stretch?
This is a question we are asked often and here's the definition we give it:
Targeted Stretch - a stretch or stretching exercise that is chosen, based on physical assessments, to target a specific muscle or muscle group to increase the flexibility and range of motion in that area and bring the bones and or joints back towards the normal position.
When you compare a targeted stretch to general stretches like the ones found in Yoga, Pilates and the corny ones your doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist gives you, it's no surprise they give little or no pain relief and almost always fail to get rid of the problem.
Remember, the key to eliminating injuries and preventing future ones is to identify what areas you need to target. In the next article we'll be discussing in detail, how to address various injuries like back, hip, knee, and shoulder pain with targeted exercises. In the meantime, be sure to read thru all of our detailed Back Pain Articles and if you have questions, please post them in our Discussion Forum.
Article by Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, CSPN and Steve Hefferon, CMT, CPRS of http://www.losethebackpain.com/. If you've got back pain or sciatic pain, you've gotta check out their video.