Ever wonder why your Massage Therapist works on muscles that are not the ones which you feel are causing the pain? Chances are you are hurting because the surrounding muscles are seized as well and are not allowing for proper movement.
Moving is a team sport for our muscles and joints. There are the muscles that initiate the movement along with their assistants and then there are the stabilizers that act to oppose the movement and return the limb to its original position. Movement is a complicated process. That is why it is important to keep all the muscles around a joint limber and not just focus on the “tight” ones.
The more sedentary our lifestyle, the more important it is to stretch. For instance, when we sit for long periods, the muscles at the back of our legs, our hamstrings, become very tight. Then when we go to move, we may find it hard to straighten our leg without experiencing pain or cramping. After a while, this repetitive cycle causes other muscles to get involved and we find that our low back and knees hurt as well.
Muscle tension is often mistaken for strength when in fact it signifies the opposite, that the muscle is weak. Stretching daily keeps our muscles flexible, strong and healthy. Being flexible allows for optimal movement of our joints and improves the flow of nutrient rich blood to help grow and sustain the health of our muscles.
Aging adds another dimension as our tendons begin to shorten and tighten, causing our muscles to lose their elasticity and flexibility. As a result, everyday movements such as getting up and down from a chair and bending and walking can become uncomfortable and difficult. Stretching is a healthful preventative practice and is proven to offset the effects of aging, keeping our muscles supple and our joints flexible.
Stretching is also beneficial to our immune system. There is a lot of talk these days about “immune boosting”, to help our body fight bacteria and viruses. Unlike our circulatory system that has a heart to pump and veins with valves to help transport our blood, our lymph (immune) system is dependent on movement. Combining deep breathing (diagrammatic) with movement pumps the lymph towards the heart, allowing it to be filtered and “cleaned” by the immune system cells. Something similar occurs when we stretch our muscles.
Stretching daily is one preventative practice that is worth making a priority. It keeps our muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, reduces our risk of joint pain and strains, and will enable us to enjoy walks in the park as we age.
It used to be thought that stretches were best done to warm up the muscles to prepare them for activity. Research now tells us that stretching should be done when the muscles are already warm. Save your stretching for after a warm up or a hot shower or bath for optimal results.
We have included a massage and stretch treatment in our specials this month. Our therapists will teach you the stretches that will help you manage and alter your chronic tension patterns and enable you to enjoy freedom of movement with strong, flexible and healthy muscles.