How Long Should I Hold A Stretch?

Almost everybody knows the importance of stretching. Unfortunately, few people know how to do it properly.  Specifically, how long should you hold a stretch for?  The answer is that it depends on why you’re stretching. Here are two stretching rules to keep in mind.

Rule One – Stretching Before A Workout

It’s highly recommended to give your body a warmup before engaging in strenuous activity of any sort.  In this case, you’re limbering up your muscles, not trying to improve long-term flexibility.  Given that, relatively short stretches are superior.  Don’t hold any given stretch position for more than twenty seconds.  That’s enough to bring your muscles to attention without overdoing it.

Rule Two – Stretching To Improve Flexibility

The other common reason people do stretching exercises is in a bid to improve their flexibility over the long term.  Here, short duration stretches don’t really offer you much in the way of a benefit.  Ideally, for this purpose, you’ll want to hold your stretch for as long as a minute or two. Although if that’s impractical, try to maintain the stretch position for at least thirty seconds. Done consistently and over a period of time, this will vastly improve your body’s flexibility.

The bottom line then, is that you need to tailor the stretching you’re doing to the task at hand.  There’s not a one size fits all solution and engaging in the wrong type of stretching will either not see you gain much benefit in the best case. In the worst case, it could significantly hamper your performance and increase your risk of injury.

Whatever type of stretching you engage in, it’s always important to be mindful of your body and the signals it’s sending you.  A bit of discomfort while stretching is to be expected.  If that turns to outright pain, ease off.

Are Your Muscles Just Sore Or Is It Something Serious?

After a good workout, your muscles hurt.  Usually, that means you’re doing it right, but sometimes it can be a sign that something has gone wrong.  The question is, how do you differentiate between general soreness (which is both common and a good thing after a workout) and actual pain?

This article will help make that clear.

In order to improve your body, you have to push its limits.  When you do that, muscle soreness is one of the short-term results.  Fortunately, this mild burning sensation passes within a day or two and can be alleviated via things as simple as resting, stretching before and after your workout, and then more activity.

The more you work your body, the more efficient it gets and the further back your soreness threshold moves.

Unfortunately, if you overdo it, you’ll find yourself experiencing more than simple soreness.  Pain tends to run deeper.  While soreness is confined to your muscles themselves, pain seeps into your joints too.  While soreness will subside with additional activity, such activity will only make pain worse.

Further, soreness tends to be relatively short lived.  In two or three days, even after a strenuous workout, the soreness subsides.  Pain won’t.  It won’t go away until whatever underlying issue is causing the pain has been addressed.

If you give it enough time, those underlying issues will usually (but not always) go away on their own.  Even so, most people lack the time or patience for that.  If you’re experiencing an unpleasant sensation and you’re not sure whether it’s simple soreness or serious pain, and if it hasn’t subsided in a couple days, play it safe.  Pay a visit to your doctor or your chiropractor and get it checked out.  It’s always better to err on the side of caution.

Should You Exercise Through Knee Pain?

There are several myths and misconceptions about exercising and knee pain. Some people say you should avoid any type of exercise at all if your knees are hurting. Others recommend a “walk it off” approach, suggesting you work through the pain.  Which of the two approaches is correct, though?

The answer is:  It’s complicated.

If you’ve just suffered a knee injury and it is swollen and inflamed, give it a bit of time (48 to 72 hours) before you attempt to exercise it.  During that time, apply heat and ice in an alternating pattern.  After that, however, your knee will be healed sufficiently to stand gentle, low-impact and low-intensity exercise.

You should always listen to your body, however.  If the pain becomes too much, definitely don’t try to work through it.  You may wind up making it worse.

You should also avoid any form of exercise that sees you putting a heavy weight load on your knees.  Weight lifting with a knee injury, for instance, is a recipe for disaster.  Anything that requires jumping is likewise a bad idea for anyone with a knee injury. The sudden stop at the end will put tremendous pressure on your knees, which can make an existing injury worse. This is called high-impact exercise.

On the other hand, there are a number of low-intensity exercises that don’t put excess weight on your knees and those are all fine.  Squatting, for instance (without weights) is a fantastic way to gently exercise your knees and stretch the connecting ligaments, which will actually facilitate faster healing.

Another misconception is the notion that if you have arthritic knees, you shouldn’t exercise them.  This is actually bad advice. If you neglect exercising your arthritic knees, they’ll actually get worse faster than they would if you do regular, low impact exercises. This is even if the act of doing so causes a moderate amount of pain.

The bottom line is, exercising with a sore knee is possible. That’s provided that you don’t do it immediately after an injury, you are mindful of what your body is telling you, and aware of the types of exercises you do.

 

Do You Have Pain When You Bend Or Reach?

If you experience back pain when you bend or stretch, you’re certainly not alone.  The question though, is what’s causing your back pain in the first place?

The answers are more varied than you might think.  Here are the most common ones:

A Muscle Strain or Sprain

These two are far and away the most common causes of back pain that flares up as a consequence of you stretching, bending or reaching.  It hurts, yes, but it’s temporary.  With the application of alternating ice and heat, paired with low impact exercises that gently stretch those muscles, you can expect pain caused by strains or sprains to gradually improve and fade away over time.

This type of pain can be caused by a variety of issues including nerve compression, lack of blood flow, a general lack of flexibility and excessive physical activity which leads to overuse.  Even dehydration can cause this type of pain.

A Herniated Disc

While not nearly as common as a muscle strain or sprain, herniated discs are still commonplace and describe a condition where the soft padding between two segments of your spine has slipped out of position and begun to bulge out.  When that happens, pretty much any time you move, you’re going to experience sharp, shooting pain.

With proper treatment, including NSAIDs and low-impact exercise, the pain from a herniated disc will begin to subside in six to eight weeks.  Other treatments such as an epidural steroid injection could speed the process even further, although if the pain persists much beyond eight weeks, surgery may be required to correct the issue.

Arthritis

This is more common in people over the age of fifty-five, although it’s certainly possible that arthritis could be the issue in people younger than that.  Unfortunately, there’s no cure for arthritis, although there are several viable treatments that can help you manage the pain.

Our recommendation is this:  Unless you can point to a recent activity that may have caused a strain or sprain, you should see your doctor or chiropractor and give them the opportunity to assess you, so you can begin treating it appropriately.  Don’t suffer needlessly!