Flexibility is one of the biggest components of being well that is very much overlooked. If you don’t have the mobility in your joints, your mind will have your body do whatever you ask it to, but there will be breakdown somewhere – and probably not where you are tight. Think about a car for example – if one wheel had something tight, causing it to be out of alignment – the car would still go down the road but things would start shaking, and you would see where you want to go – and correct it with the steering wheel (just like your eyes see where your body wants to go, and you still go straight) but after time things can rattle off, or break down, much like your body – knees start hurting, arthritis sets in, discs get blown. Everybody is different in how and where it is tight, but here are the 5 most common stretches I give as a physical therapist.
- Gastroc/soleus stretch. Stand with your toes up against the wall, (one foot at a time), and bring your hips towards the wall. You should feel it in your calf.
- Hamstring stretch. Sit with one leg propped up and lift your chest, leaning forward from your hips, stretching the back of your leg.
- Hip flexor stretch. Get on the floor on one knee with the other knee up. Make sure there is plenty of room between your knee and the heel in the front. Tuck your buttocks, and lean forward (don’t arch your back – just stand up straight) If you don’t feel it, bring your front foot farther forward.
- Pectoral stretch. Stand with your forearm supported in a doorframe, gently turn your body (keep your shoulder back and down) till you feel the stretch across the front of your chest.
- Upper trap stretch. Sit up straight and tall, gently sit on one hand, tilt your head in the opposite direction and gently stretch it down with your opposite arm.
I generally say hold each stretch for 30 seconds, and do each 3 times. (depending on how tight and how sore you are). Never do the stretch to pain – if you have stretching discomfort, that is what you are looking for, but if there is pain, back off, and/or have someone check you out. Keeping your self flexible allows for motion in your joints, so when you ask them to move, you can move painfree. In general movement it isn’t as noticeable, but if you are a weekend warrior, or decide to go out and play with kids/grandkids, you typically have to move more, and if you don’t have the flexibility, it can cause pain/problems in joints, or pulled muscle.