Stretching to Ease Pain and Stress

Stretching can take you from here:

To here:

Where would you like to be?

Tension, shallow breathing, and slouching coupled with stress are a recipe for muscle and joint pain.  Muscles become tight when asked to hold an awkward position and when poor circulation deprives muscles of enough nutrients and oxygen.  Over-achieving tight muscles develop spasms, cramps, and trigger points.  Super over-achieving tight muscles can actually pull on a nearby joint, causing strain, pain, and odd noises such clicking and popping.

These issues are often easily remedied with simple stretches.

I have seen long term sciatic pain vanish after correct stretching of the buttocks muscles.  One patient had tried chiropractic, acupuncture, massage and steroid injections without sustained relief. In her case, the main problem was muscle tightness, specifically the muscles near the sciatic nerve. We did some stretches with correct form and, just like that, the pain was gone.  The patient did not believe it at first, but after realizing the pain had vanished she wanted to hug and kiss me!  Really, it was so simple.  She just learned how to stretch and breathe.  That is what her muscles needed to relax into a normal position, relieving local pressure.

Muscle and joint pain is not always so straightforward.  Often, it is complicated.  Usually, it involves muscle tension of some sort.  Correct stretching will reduce a portion of the pain without fail.  So then, what is correct stretching?  Below is my short list of qualities of effective stretching.

  1. Consistent.  Better to stretch for 30 seconds daily than 1 hour once a week.
  2. Gentle.  Gradual pulling and lengthening. No bouncing or sudden direct force.
  3. Isolation.  Angle and position will target a muscle, or group of muscles, to relax into resting position.
  4. Passive.  Muscles in their most relaxed position will stretch more easily.  It is difficult to elongate a muscle that is being used and therefore in a contracted state.  That is asking the muscle to relax and contract at the same time.

So stretch and breathe! It won’t harm, it could heal, and it’s free! Try it now!

Dr. Tabitha Werblud is the resident musculoskeletal pain specialist at the Tahoma Clinic North Seattle.  Dr. Werblud is an expert in a modality called Pain Neutralization Technique (PNT), a gentle, non-invasive approach for chronic pain syndromes.