Does Stretching Help With All Types of Aches and Injuries?
If you’re recovering from an injury, you may notice activities like physical therapy or practitioner-assisted stretching becoming part of your recovery program. This is because they’re very beneficial for reducing discomfort to get you back up and running in no time. Some people might also worry if a particular type of injury or ache is best left alone.
Let’s go over the different types of aches and injuries a person can experience and the best ways to stretch them. We will also talk about how stretching can help relieve aches, and how you can accurately describe what you’re feeling for the best possible outcome.
How Does Stretching Help Relieve Aches?
The first thing someone does when they feel an ache from tightness or stiffness is stretch the area. This is because it’s very effective at helping manage discomfort. It’s widely known that stretching increases a person’s range of motion, giving the impression of less aches. Your brain plays a significant role in this.
Stretching is an exercise that produces hypoalgesia, which denotes a decreased sensitivity to harmful stimuli. This phenomenon occurs because, somewhere between the input and the places where they’re recognized as aches to the brain, those nociceptors become interrupted or decreased.
How are Aches Classified?
Aches and discomfort can occur in many forms and impact everyone in various ways. Some of the common words that generally describe these feelings include:
Knowing the classification of your ache can be helpful for you. Although there are many ways to describe the discomfort you’re experiencing, we’ve decided to list the five most common types.
This is generally short-term and comes on suddenly. Acute aches usually have a specific cause, such as a tissue injury, and should last no more than six months. The best way to get rid of this type of ache is to address the underlying cause and treat it. You might have acute aches if they start out sharp or intense before it gradually improves.
Stretching acute aches
Acute aches are generally related to soft tissue injuries or a temporary illness. Stretching exercises can be helpful in some cases, but only if they’re done correctly. This is why it’s best to go to a professional, so they can work on increasing the blood flow to the area and reduce discomfort.
An experienced stretch practitioner or physical therapist can perform light stretches to ensure that you don’t further strain your acute ache by overstretching.
If you’re feeling soreness or tenderness that lasts more than six months after an injury has healed, it’s considered chronic. The severity can vary each day, and this type of ache impacts approximately 50 million U.S. adults. People living with chronic discomfort may notice an impact on their quality of life without adequately managing it.
Stretching chronic aches
Stretching is incredibly beneficial for chronic aches. While it can’t cure the underlying condition, it can certainly help provide relief while you work with your healthcare provider to address the problem. Stretch can also boost mobility, helping you return to your daily activities free of discomfort. Sticking with this plan is essential for relieving your symptoms and reducing the stress that often comes with it.
Most people call this neuropathy or peripheral neuropathy. You experience neuropathic discomfort when there is damage or dysfunction in your nervous system. Nociceptors begin misfiring because of this, making the aches seem to appear out of nowhere. This may also cause you to feel an unpleasant response to things that usually don’t hurt you.
One of the most common causes of neuropathy is diabetes.
Stretching neuropathic aches
You want to be careful with stretching a nerve injury. If the damage isn’t too severe, practitioner-assisted stretching can reduce discomfort and prevent future nerve injuries. This activity will improve blood flow to the affected limbs and reduce tension in the muscles. Certain stretches are better for neuropathic injuries in particular parts of the body.
For example, if neuropathy is impacting your balance, your stretch practitioner can focus more on calf stretches to help.
This is the most common type of discomfort people experience. People get nociceptive aches when their receptors become stimulated. People have nociceptors throughout their bodies that become stimulated by potential harm, such as a cut or any other injury. When this happens, they send electrical signals to your brain, which causes you to feel the aches.
Nociceptive aches can be classified into two different categories:
Visceral – Results from injuries or damage to internal organs
Somatic – Results from stimulation of the nociceptors in your tissues
Stretching nociceptive aches
Since an injury often causes nociceptive aches, your best bet is to wait until it heals before stretching it. You’ll also want to strengthen and stretch the affected muscles to improve them. A stretching professional can help determine the best moves for you to provide relief.
This is a more specific type of discomfort that occurs when your spinal nerve becomes inflamed or compressed. This sensation radiates from the back of the hip and into the legs, and people may experience tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness because of it. Sciatica is one of the most common types of radiculopathy.
Stretching radicular aches
Targeting the main source of discomfort can help you find some relief from radiculopathy. Stretching aims to improve flexibility, rotation, or mobility in the affected area. It also makes it easier to move and helps ease that pinched nerve causing the aches to radiate to other areas of the body.
It’s much safer and more effective to have a professional guide you through these stretches. Stretching incorrectly with radiculopathy can worsen symptoms or cause serious nerve damage.
Accurately Describing Discomfort
It’s crucial to know how to accurately describe what you feel so health professionals can determine the best treatment plan for your injury and aches. This can give them a better idea of what could be the issue, so they’ll understand how to help it. Below are some tips on how to describe the discomfort you’re experiencing to your healthcare provider:
How Long You’ve Had it
How long you’ve been dealing with these aches will determine whether you have a short- or long-term condition. As previously mentioned, anything that lasts under six months is acute, and aches lasting longer than six months is chronic. Knowing whether you have chronic or acute aches can help determine the best treatment plan for you.
How Often it Occurs
Does this twinge come and go, or is it constant? This will determine if there’s a more significant issue that needs to be addressed to reduce discomfort or if it’s just a tight muscle that needs to be loosened up a bit. If you have short-term (acute) aches from an injury, stretching it the right way can actually help you reduce the soreness that comes with it. If your long-term (chronic) discomfort is due to an underlying cause, professional stretching can help you manage it.
What Brought it On
Did this discomfort occur after an injury, or did it seem to pop up out of nowhere? Neuropathy can cause people to feel aches when nothing is actively hurting them. Depending on the source of the discomfort, you may need to wait until an injury heals before you begin gentle stretching.
If you’re getting these aches from neuropathy, certain stretches can help increase blood flow while boosting energy. This can help activate your nerve signals, so they don’t fire our nociceptors when nothing is harming you.
Activities/Movements That Worsen It
This is another crucial factor that can help determine the best treatment plan for you. If certain movements worsen your discomfort, stretching may be ineffective. At that point, you’ll want to find the underlying cause of that ache and address it so it can go away. If you can’t get in a particular position for stretching, your stretch practitioner will try to work around the area to loosen the surrounding muscles, relieving the tightness that’s making it hard to move.
Of course, if you can’t find relief with any of the stretching exercises we provide, it could be a bigger problem that requires medical attention. Figuring out how to reduce this irritation will become easier once you figure out what’s causing it.
Where You Feel It
Knowing where you feel these aches will help stretch practitioners determine the best exercises and stretches to help alleviate your discomfort. Since the entire body is connected from head to toe, you’d be surprised to learn that calf stretches can actually help reduce lower back irritation.
This is generally the area we target if an injury or stiffness causes you to alter how you normally walk, making your lower back take on the extra pressure since your lower legs aren’t doing their job correctly.
If it’s in One Spot or Spread Out
Aches don’t necessarily stay in one spot. When you first get an injury, you might notice soreness in the area that specifically was hurt. Over time, it can start to spread to other areas of the body. While that one part is affected, the surrounding areas begin to overcompensate.
For example, someone who hurt their knee will have to alter their gait to prevent putting too much pressure on the sensitive area. When this happens, the normal body mechanics become disrupted. You may start to notice the aches in your knee spread to your lower back because of this.
What if Stretching Causes More Aches?
Stretching should not cause unbearable discomfort. If it does, several issues could be wrong. You could be doing the stretch incorrectly, which can worsen symptoms rather than improve them. It’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t stretch an injury until it heals; otherwise, you’re going to prolong the healing process.
The most important thing you should do if you feel an uncomfortable twinge during a stretch is to stop immediately and seek advice from a medical professional. Stretching should never hurt.
At Stretch Zone, we utilize a method that allows patients to describe their comfort levels to their stretch practitioner.
A 3 indicates that you feel a gentle pull on the muscle.
A 5 indicates that you’re closer to your full range of motion.
A 7 indicates that you feel like you can’t stretch any further.
Other Options for Managing Aches and Discomfort
Stretching isn’t the only way to relieve soreness! In fact, health professionals encourage people to try several things to help alleviate discomfort. Some of the other ways to help manage the aches you experience include:
- Over the counter or prescription medication
- Light exercising
- Losing weight
- Ice or heat
Should You Keep Stretching Even After the Aches Go Away?
Absolutely! Once you stop, the irritation and discomfort are only going to return. Being consistent with your stretching and other activities will surely keep those aches from returning. It’ll also help reduce the risk of injuries during physical activities. Besides, you can get plenty of other benefits from regularly stretching that go beyond relieving discomfort! Some of them include:
- Better physical performance
- Better sleep
- Improved posture
- Mental clarity
- Improved mood
Another critical thing to remember is not to overdo it. Stretching with a professional is supposed to help prepare your body for movement and fend off stiffness and tightness. Gentle stretching every day is ideal, and visiting our professionals at least two to three times a week for a deeper stretch can also help. This is especially important for recovery.
How Can the Stretch Zone Method Reduce Aches?
Stretch Zone utilizes special methods and protocols to help gradually increase your range of motion. Most soreness that people complain about is due to stiff muscles. This is due to sedentary lifestyles overworking and stressing the muscles. When they can’t move like they’re supposed to, they’ll become stiff.
We work to increase and maintain range of motion with our proven method, allowing people to move with ease and comfort. Constantly having your muscles flexed produces resting muscle residual tension, also known as tonus. The more you have, the harder it becomes to move. The method we utilize uses the principles of neuromuscular behavior.
Looking for an Assisted Stretching Program to Manage Body Aches?
Our stretch practitioners are dedicated to helping people feel their best by providing practitioner-assisted stretching. Each one has become certified in the Stretch Zone method so they can work on gradually increasing people’s range of motion while decreasing aches. If you have any questions about how our services work, please don’t hesitate to call and ask.
Your first 30-minute stretch session is free, so find a location near you and get started on the road to a more comfortable life!