Stretching – THE Ignored Component to Health & Wellness

Posted by on Mar 10, 2014 in Functional Medicine, Guest Blogger | 0 comments


Tara Johnson, featured in Dr. Deanna’s Healing Handook, is a guest writer on the blog this week!  Tara is a Certified Personal Trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine.  She is the owner of Get Fit for Life where her goal is to help clients set goals, work a plan and adapt their behaviors to live a full and fit life.

Exercise is an important part of staying healthy, but Tara is here to remind us that stretching is a critical component for a healthy body.Stretching may be the most important aspect of physical fitness and the most neglected. Stretching has two components – flexibility and elasticity. Flexibility is the body’s ability to move unrestricted and elasticity is the body’s ability to return to its original shape before it was stretched, think Gumby. Most people do not build this component into their exercise regimen and fail to realize that stretching increases body strength and muscle tone. The lack or absence of stretching in one’s fitness regimen can lead to issues with joint pain and discomfort in simple movements.

If we take the hamstring as an example, we can see how the lack or absence of stretching this one muscle group can lead to knee pain or lower back pain. The hamstring is composed of three posterior thigh muscles – basically, the muscles that run down the back of your upper leg. The three muscles that comprise the hamstring originate above the hip in a place known as the ischial tuberosity, also known as the sitz bone, or as the sitting bones. The muscles then run down the back of your leg and cross the knee joint before inserting themselves in the tibia or fibula, the two bones that make up your lower leg.

If we consider the origination and insertion points for this particular muscle, we see that it has the potential to impact the hip and knee joints, as well as anything connected to these two joints. When the hamstring muscles are tight, the muscle is short. This causes the areas at either end to compensate or be pulled to a shortened length as well. A shortened hamstring muscle may cause the pelvic bone to be rotated, causing additional strain on the lower back. It may also lead to pain behind the back of the knee when the knee is extended or the leg is straightened.

So, if you are experiencing pain in a particular area of the body, the cause of the pain may not be in the area where you are feeling the discomfort. If your lower back hurts, you may just have to stretch your hamstrings!

There are different ways to stretch, with the most common being a static stretch. This is a stretch where the range of motion can be achieved by holding a body stretch in a stationary position for a period of time. An example of this would be reaching down and touching your toes. If you are trying to improve your flexibility, which should be a goal for each of us, the best time to actively stretch is at the end of your workout, when your muscle tissue is at a high thermal temperature. Performing stretching movements when your body is cold, increases the risk of injury and does not allow for a complete range of motion.

Make sure to allow at least 5 minutes at the end of every workout to stretch, even if that means you do not workout as long. If you do not have time to stretch, then you do not have time to workout!

Thanks Tara!  To find out more about whole body health, check out Dr. Deanna’s Healing Handbook

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