Following on from my last post about stretching I wanted to give a bit more information about my personal thoughts on the subject. I love to stretch because it makes me feel good, especially after a day of being on my feet at the clinic.
My preferred method of stretching is Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) – and not just because it rolls of the tongue so easily! It can also be referred to as Contract-Relax stretching.
This approach can rewire the bodies image of what is happening within the muscle by utilising the bodies natural reflexes. There are a couple of variations of PNF. The variations include changing up what muscle is contracted, or by using a partner, therapist or coach to stretch the muscle. PNF can be used on almost any muscle in the body however some are easier than others.
I use static, dynamic and PNF stretching in my daily life. Each has a time and a place.
Static stretching is taking a muscle to the point of stretch and holding for a certain amount of time.
Dynamic stretching is a more aggressive movement of the muscle through its available range. Think about a footballer swinging their leg high before a shot for goal or a runner lifting their knees high towards the chest before a race, or a swimmer moving their arms like a windmill before getting into the water. They are all examples of dynamic stretches.
PNF is a three step process which involves 1) stretching a muscle, 2) activating the muscle in that position and 3) gently re-stretching the muscle. It is a process that requires a bit more concentration and body awareness than the traditional static stretch but the effects are worth it.
I find in a clinic setting where I work on dysfunctional muscles, PNF works functionally to restore muscle integrity, and it also has an analgesic effect – it feels so much better after a therapist assisted stretch!
PNF also has the benefit of the muscle working during the process. This leads to strength in the muscle at that lengthened state. So if the body is stretched through trauma or recreation, it has some strength to prevent tissue damage and return the body to a more desired position.
I often say that if the body doesn’t like the stretch, or there is fear associated with the stretch it is not going to make the desired changes, which defeats the purpose of stretching. Experiencing pain or a high level of distress while stretching won’t reassure the body, instead it will have a negative effect of reiterating to the body that there is pain. This can result in an issue lasting for longer than it should. If you use the bodies own reflexes to your advantage it can shorten the duration of a problem or prevent it in the first place.
PNF is not for everyone. It takes a lot more body awareness and skill which some people don’t have. Once learnt it is a great skill for self management of the body. For more insight or advice on what stretch or exercises are right for you, come and have a chat to one of us in the clinic.