I think most people believe that they need to stretch. Most patients who come into my office have an awareness of the need to stretch. Somehow it has been communicated to them and they believe that stretching is good. However, just as eating your veggies is known to be good for you, not everyone does it on a regular basis.
While there are hundreds of stretches you can and probably should do, I want to break it down to the top 5 stretches you really should do on a regular basis. Consider this your stretching pill. People would much rather take a pill to solve their problems, than to actually do the work. It’s much easier to take a veggie pill, than to actually have ½ of your plate be veggies. While I haven’t yet found a way to put the effects of stretching into an actual pill, here are the top 5 stretches to keep your body moving the way it was designed to move.
1. Foam Roll Pectoral Stretch: We went over this one in last week’s post. It will probably remain in the #1 spot for as long as our society uses computers, drives, and watches TV.
2. Calf Stretch: For as simple as this stretch is, it may be up there in the top 5 reasons for knee pain. When our calf muscles get tight, it alters the way we advance our weight forward over our feet (aka walking). There are several ways to stretch the calf, but I recommend stretching on a slant board, step or curb, and hold the stretch for 2 minutes.
3. Adductor Straddle: Keeping your adductors (aka groin muscles) flexible is extremely important in the proper movement of your hips, pelvis and low back. The important aspect of this stretch is to keep your low back FLAT against the wall. If you are really tight, it will be difficult to get in this position and your low back will want to round out. Keep working at this- it will get easier.
4. Hamstring Wall Sit Stretch: Same position as the previous stretch, now just bring both legs facing forward. Same importance on keeping the back flat against the wall. Want to check to see if you have tight hamstrings? Read a previous post.
5. Half Kneel Hip Flexor Stretch: The hip flexors tend to be the forgotten muscles with stretching. It is imperative to keep these flexible in order to prevent low back issues. The most important aspect of this stretch is to make sure you are not arching your low back due to the tightness in the hip flexors. I recommend doing a posterior pelvic tilt (abdominal contraction) while in this position to prevent your low back from arching.
You can print out this list of exercises and see video demonstrations by typing in the code: RNJ1215 at www.sportschange.com in the Home Exercise Log In Box.
Pick one stretch a day and integrate it into your daily routine. For example, stretch #1 can be your Monday stretch, and #2 your Tuesday stretch. While doing all of them every day would be great, why not just start with one a day? So what do you say? Can you take your stretch pill today?
As with anything I post on this blog, if you have pain or a current injury, you should get it evaluated by the proper medical professional. This is not intended to diagnose, or treat any injury. The purpose of these posts is for injury prevention only.