Have you ever been to a sporting event and watched athletes stretch before and after the game? Is there a purpose for their stretching? Is it as beneficial as experts say it is? In this week’s blog, we will explain the importance of stretching, briefly discuss different types of stretching, and share stretches we recommend for a healthy spine.

Why is Stretching Important?

Stretching is a physical activity that involves gently elongating and extending muscles and soft tissue. Stretching is important and should be performed daily regardless of an injury or not. Stretching should be done in situations including before and after a workout, when an injury is sustained, and each morning before getting out of bed. You should stretch before getting out of bed every morning? Yes. The average person should sleep 6-8 hours a night. When you’re in a prolonged lying position, muscles and joints become stiff which can increase risks of low back pain in the morning. Stretching for 5 minutes every morning stimulates blood flow through the muscles, therefore, reducing risks of injury. 

What Are the Benefits of Stretching?

Stretching daily facilitates spinal health benefits and positive movement patterns. Below is a list of health benefits from daily stretching: 

  • Improved flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhanced circulation and blood flow to the muscles.
  • Reduced muscle tension and stress.
  • Enhanced athletic performance by preparing muscles for activity.
  • Potential for injury prevention by maintaining good muscle and joint health.
  • Improved posture and body awareness.

Different Types of Beneficial Stretching

There are six different types of beneficial stretching. Each has its specific purpose and should be used at the appropriate times. The following list includes each stretch with a brief description:

  1. Static Stretching

This is the most common type of stretching when a stretch is held for approximately 15-60 seconds. It is usually performed during cool downs, and it helps improve flexibility and gradually lengthens the muscles. 

  1. Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretches involve moving parts of the body through a full range of motion. These are often used as warm-up exercises before physical activities to increase blood flow and prepare the muscles for movement. 

  1. Ballistic Stretching

This type of stretching involves using momentum to force a muscle into an extended position. It’s considered riskier than other methods and is not recommended for most people due to the potential for injury.

  1. PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) Stretching:

PNF techniques involve a combination of contracting and relaxing muscles. This method is often done with a partner and can lead to rapid gains in flexibility.

  1. Active Stretching

Active stretching uses the strength of opposing muscles to stretch the target muscle. It’s done without external assistance or added force.

  1. Passive Stretching

Passive stretching requires external assistance, such as a partner, gravity, or a prop like a strap or wall, to hold you in a stretched position. 

NOTE: There is a condition known as overstretching. Stretching for too long or exceeding flexibility limitations can cause injury. When stretching, start gradually and increase resistance over time. Light stretching is better than not stretching at all. 

What Stretches Are Beneficial for Spine Health?

There are many different stretches that are beneficial for spine health. Some are simple to perform, and others are more complex. We recommend performing simple stretches to prevent injury, reduce pain, increase flexibility, and promote positive spinal curvatures. Below is a list of the common neck, thoracic and lower back stretches we recommend.

Neck Stretches

  • Chin Tucks

Chin Tuck Exercise for TMJ Relief – JawFlex®

  • Side Bends (With or without resistance)

Neck side flexion overstretch - YouTube

  • Flexion, extension, rotation movements (with or without resistance) 

Day-to-Day Exercise: Neck Pain Stretches & Exercises | BHSNeck Exercises provided by Northwest Florida SpineCervical Spine Rotation Stretching - YouTube

Thoracic Stretches

  • Cat-Cow Exercise

Cat and Cow Yoga Poses for Kids | Flow and Grow Kids Yoga

  • Wall Angel

The Wall Angel - why you need this exercise in your life | Bodylogics  Health and Fitness Clinic

  • Foam Roller Thoracic Extension

Thoracic Spine Mobilizations with Foam Roller - YouTube

Low Back Stretches

  • Child’s Pose

childs pose back pain exercises

  • Supine Twist

Yoga at home: Jathara Parivartanasana Pose

  • Knee-to-Chest (One Leg or Bilateral)

Young attractive woman in Apanasana pose, white studio backgroun

  • Supine Figure 4 Stretch

Resting Muscles

  • Hamstring Assisted Stretch

The Massage Therapist's Guide to Assisted Stretching Techniques

  • Wall Lunge (Calf Stretch)

Standing Stretches to do At Home

  • Calf Raise Stretch (Supported on steps)

Calf stretches - Bauerfeind Polyclinic | Foot Care Specialist

Note that these are just a few of many stretches that can help manage pain, increase flexibility, improve posture, and positively influence spinal curvatures. We chose these stretches because they are easy to do and can be done by yourself or assisted by someone else. Performing these stretches twice a day is beneficial to your health.

For more information or questions about beneficial stretching, please call us at (724) 547-3377 and view our website at www.drlarrywilkinsspinalcare.com for more content.

Yours In Health,

Larry E. Wilkins, DC

Brian M. Steinert, DC