I don’t much enjoy stretching myself but I do love being stretched by someone who knows what they’re doing – like my wonderful osteopath and PT friend Radi who comes over to Highbury to stretch me thoroughly once a week. Being stretched is so much more effective than stretching yourself. It also tends to take you that bit further in a stretch than when you do it yourself.
Stretching is a complicated subject and there are all sorts of stretching techniques – PNF, muscle energy technique, ballistic stretching, dynamic stretching, static stretching, passive and active stretching and so on. There is surprisingly little consensus on the benefits of stretching – some people claim it helps prevent injuries, improves performance, stimulates blood flow and is mentally focusing. Others say stretching can actually cause injury, and does nothing to improve performance or prevent soreness. Still, most people in the field of sport and physical science agree that stretching, in conjunction with exercise, is beneficial. Those who warm up, stretch, exercise, stretch again and then cool down are the ones least likely to injure themselves and most likely to have good range of motion, flexibility and healthy muscles.
I love stretching my clients – many of them get into a lazy routine of stretching the same muscles in the same way. Stretching someone in ways they do not stretch themselves and beyond their normal range of movement can be a bit uncomfortable but it should also be a pleasurable experience and I have rarely stretched a client who hasn’t stood up from the table feeling exhilarated.