Published on October 21, 2012
To help the body maintain the ability to perform normal activity, there must be a proper amount of flexibility in the joints and muscles. Disease, trauma, or loss of motion in a joint can eventually cause shortening of the muscles, tendons, and joint capsule. For these reasons, stretching is an important part of rehabilitation.
Stretching can be done before and after exercise or activity. Stretching is best done slowly. Do not bounce during a stretch. When stretching:
- First take the muscle to a gentle pull.
- Hold the stretch for a short while (approx. 15-30 seconds). You may hold the stretch longer if desired.
- When the feeling of tension decreases, the stretch can be taken further.
- Rest between stretches. Never try to gain too much range in one session and never stretch to the point of pain. It may take several weeks to see results, so be patient.
- Relax and breathe regularly during stretches.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
- When stretching muscles that cross two joints, first stretch over each joint separately, then
- stretch both joints together.
- Gentle, longer stretches are generally more effective than intense, brief stretches.
- Stretch the joints farthest away from the trunk first.
- Applying heat to the joints and muscles prior to stretching can help enhance the stretch.
- Massage and relaxation techniques may enhance stretching.
There are specialized techniques for stretching, which your health professional may teach you.
Do NOT Stretch IF:
- The joint has a bony block.
- A fracture is present.
- The muscle or joint is inflamed (as indicated by the presence of heat or swelling).
- The joint is excessively lax and the muscle is helping to keep the joint stable.