What are the current thoughts on muscle stretches?
This really depends on what you are trying to achieve with your stretches. There is no evidence to date that proves that static stretching before exercise contributes to injury prevention. It has been found, that stretching your muscles before exercise can temporarily diminish the power produced by those muscles during a dynamic activity that immediately follows the stretching.
For example, this has been observed in studies that compare heights and distances jumped by athletes when stretching or not stretching beforehand.
Nevertheless, stretching is useful in addressing muscle tightness that is adversely affecting the biomechanical function of your body. For example, tight hamstrings or hip flexors may be contributing to low back pain, or tight calf muscles may be contributing to shin splints. You may also need to stretch to carry out certain movements effectively, such as in dance or martial arts.
It can also be an important part of rehabilitating injured tissue, so that it can heal in an optimally strong and flexible state and is most effective when the body is warmed up, for example after a bath or shower, or after exercise that has brought on at least a light sweat.
When and how you stretch are ultimately relative to your goals, and a physiotherapist should be able to advise you, based on your specific objectives.
If you would like to discuss this with one of our physiotherapists or pop in for a session on how to stretch effectively, please call us on 020 7183 4436.
By Nic Cote BSc MCSP SRP
Senior Physiotherapist @ PHYSIO FITNESS