The general concept of stretching is something that everyone has at least heard of. As a child taking gym class, we sometimes had a teacher tell us that we were going to do some stretching exercises. The problem is that we didn’t do stretching before every single class, so most people, outside of world class athletes, don’t believe or understand how stretching is supposed to benefit us.
One benefit of stretching is to help prevent injuries. Athletes do a lot of leg stretching before running to help ward off cramps that could occur during competition. Stretching stimulates the muscles and gets the blood flowing, as well as gets the body ready for the stress it’s going to encounter.
Stretching also heals the body after injuries. Whether it’s a massage therapist or a chiropractor or any other physician who deals in injuries, a portion of what they do on the body involves some kind of stretching. As mentioned earlier, stretching gets the blood flowing, and when blood is flowing, it beings white blood cells to the affected areas of the body, which helps them heal.
Stretching can be used to help strengthen parts of the body. When people have injured their back, one of the treatments they’re given to do at home are a series of stretching exercises to strengthen the back muscles. Some of the tools of physical therapy involve tools meant to help facilitate stretching, such as therabands and rubber balls.
Stretching can also feel good. When getting a massage, massage therapists apply a series of stretches that help bring relief from stress and helps the body relax. Some of the stretching is light, some of it is heavy and deep, yet it all produces the same feelings of euphoria.
One of the things stretching hopes to help a body achieve is flexibility. Flexible bodies suffer fewer injuries than bodies that are stiff. To that end, there are exercises and systems such as yoga and tai chi which are geared towards bringing more flexibility to the body. They also involve breathing and, in some cases, a bit of medication, all geared towards improving the whole physical experience.
Of course, people have to make sure they’re stretching properly. One can actually injure themselves while stretching by pushing it beyond the limits the body is ready for. Cramping up is one such injury that can occur. Contusions are another injury. People have ended up in the emergency room frozen in strange positions from stretching too violently. So, if you’re going to do stretching, don’t overdo it; that way, it can’t be anything but beneficial to you.