How Stretching Can Hurt Your Muscles

Preventing & Healing Repetitive Strain Injuries – Part 3

 Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT

 

These past two weeks we took a look at how muscles move the body, and why muscles cause pain. Then we looked at why strengthening isn’t always the best thing to do, in fact how it could even cause more pain. And finally today we’ll discuss why stretching can actually cause muscles to tear.  I call this the Stretching Misconception.

Stretching Shouldn’t Hurt!

Have you ever felt so tight when you tried to move a joint that you decided to stretch?  The odds are that you answered “yes” to that question.  However, many people complain that they feel worse after stretching than they did before stretching.

Before getting into the specifics of the stretching misconception there are two words that need to be clarified. Many people confuse the word “spasm” with “cramp”. A cramp (also called a “Charlie horse”) normally involves all of the fibers of a muscle, and is when a muscle suddenly contracts totally. A spasm is like tying a knot in the center of the muscle and while it may only involve a few fibers; there can be multiple spasms throughout the muscle.

Each spasm feels like a bump when you slide your fingers deeply down the length of the muscle. These spasms normally form over an extended period of time, often from repetitive strain on the muscle fibers. Spasms are at the heart of the stretching misconception, so it is important that you think of a spasm as a knot in the muscle fibers in order to understand why it can hurt to stretch.

As I mentioned in Part I of this series, a muscle begins on a stationary bone, crosses over a joint, and then inserts into a moveable bone. When the muscle pulls on the moveable bone, the joint moves, however, if the muscle has a “knot” in it you can actually cause micro-tears to the fibers as you stretch.

How Stretching Can Hurt Your Muscles

Stretching Analogy 1Think of this analogy: visualize a strong tree with a rope tied to it. The rope is the perfect length to attach to a flexible tree without bending the second tree. You can imagine if you pulled on the rope the flexible tree would bend over, and if you let go of the rope, the flexible tree would stand up straight again.  This is a simple explanation of how a muscle pulls on a bone and causes the joint to move.

However, if you tied a knot in the rope, the tree would bend. If you tied a second knot, the tree would bend even further. If Stretching Analogy 2you then tried to stretch the rope so the flexible tree was standing straight, you would cause the knot to get tighter and the remaining rope would have to overstretch on both sides of the knot in order for the flexible tree to stand up straight.

This is exactly what is happening when you have a spasm, or multiple spasms, in your muscle. As you stretch you are causing the knot within the muscle to get tighter, and you are also causing the fibers on either side of the spasm to overstretch. This overstretching may cause the fibers to actually tear either along the length of the muscle, or where the fibers attach to the bone at either end of the muscle. This can be avoided by simply massaging the muscle to release the spasm before you stretch.

It’s now easy to understand why the repetitive movements that you do on a regular basis will cause the muscle to ultimately shorten into knots that we call spasms or trigger points.  As I mentioned, when you try to stretch a spasm you can be causing yourself potential problems, and may even tear the muscle fibers.

Fortunately there is a solution. First you need to release the spasms that are causing the muscle to tie up into a knot, and then you can safely stretch. TriggerPointYoga was designed and developed to first eliminate the spasms in the muscle you will be stretching, and then continues to give four separate session of traditional yoga poses – two for the upper body and two for the lower body.  You will gain flexibility and range-of-motion without injuring your muscle fibers.

Julie Donnelly is an internationally respected muscular therapist specializing in the treatment of chronic pain and sports injuries.  She has co-authored several self-treatment books, including The 15 Minute Back Pain Solution, Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living  and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You.  Julie is also the co-developer of TriggerPoint Yoga. She teaches Julstro self-treatment workshops nationwide and is a frequent presenter at Conventions and Seminars.  Julie may be contacted through her websites: http://www.julstro.com  and http://www.TriggerPointYoga.com.

© Julie Donnelly 2013

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Stop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pain Naturally

Five Stretches That Relieve the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT

Carpal Tunnel SyndromeHave you ever said in a half-joking voice, “I never felt these aches and pains before, I must be getting old?”  You aren’t getting old. You are just experiencing the results of repetitive strain injury to the muscles that you use every day.

When you use a muscle in the same manner over and over it eventually shortens.  However it is still attached to the same place and the now-shorter muscle pulls on the insertion point until it hurts.  The taut muscle can pull so hard that the joint can’t even move freely!

Perhaps you’ve been told that you have bursitis or tendonitis, when the only thing that’s happening is a muscle is pulling hard on a joint.  If the pain is in your wrist or you have numbness in your fingers you may even be told that you have carpal tunnel syndrome, and too often this will lead to unnecessary surgery or a long series of potentially dangerous drugs to stop the pain.

Whether the repetitive strain is caused by your job, your sport, or you simply overuse your hands by doing the same repetitive motion for hours at a time, hand and wrist pain can stop you short!  The pain of repetitive strain injuries can ruin the quality of your life.

Current Treatments for Hand and Wrist Pain and Numbness

Until now the initial treatments for hand and wrist pain and numbness were:

  • Wear a brace
  • Take anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Stop the repetitive motion, even if it is caused by your job
  • Go for hours of physical therapy

If unsuccessful you will be told that you need a surgical procedure that has a 50/50 chance of success and may have serious side effects. Those are not good odds, especially when it means that the negative result could have serious impact on your daily life and may even end your career!

The good news is that 95% of wrist pain and numb fingers is actually caused by tension and small knots in the muscles from your neck and shoulder, all the way down your arm and into your hand.  Release the tight muscles, and the pressure is removed from your nerve and your wrist.

Stop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pain Naturally

Five Exercises You Can Do At Home to Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  1. Open your fingers up wide, really stretching out your hand and then rotate your wrists in large circles.  You will feel the stretch in your hands and your forearms.
  1. Stretch your forearm muscles by holding your arm straight out, putting your flat hand so it is pointing up, and then taking your opposite hand to pull it back.  Then reverse the movement by bending your wrist so your flat hand is pointing down and using your opposite hand to enhance the bend.
  1. Roll your shoulders in a circle going up and back.
  1. Lean your head back so you are looking at the ceiling, than slightly turn so your cheekbone is facing the ceiling.  Feel the stretch along the side of your neck.
  1. Pull your shoulders all the way down toward the floor while tilting your head to the side.  You’ll get an even better stretch by then slightly turning your head in several directions.

If you stretch your muscles frequently, you’ll be amazed at the relief you will feel.  Plus, you’ll have better flexibility and more strength.

The good news is that you can also learn how to self-treat each of the muscles that cause hand/wrist pain and numbness.  You have excellent options before even considering drugs that have potential dangerous side-effect, or surgery that causes scar tissue in your wrist.  It’s worthwhile to explore all of your options so you can get back to living your life to its fullest – without pain.

© Julie Donnelly 2013

Julie Donnelly, LMT is a recognized authority in repetitive strain and sports injuries, chronic pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Author of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You and Treat Yourself to Pain-Free Living and a series of Stop Pain FAST! books that focus on separate conditions.

Julie is the developer of the breakthrough consumer product The Julstro Self Treatment System for Repetitive Strain Injuries of the Hand and Wrist. She lectures and teaches self-treatment workshops worldwide.

Visit: http://www.CarpalTunnelResults.com and http://www.julstro.com for more information about repetitive strain injuries.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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The Fundamentals of Stretching

When, Why & How To Stretch

Author: Kai Fusser, MS

StretchingEverybody knows (even non-athletes) that stretching can be beneficial for physical performance.

But there is a lot of misinformation and confusion on why, when, what and how to stretch. Also, many confuse stretching with a warm up and vice versa.

A warm up is exactly what it says, warming up your body, the muscles, through dynamic movements. It is the increased blood flow that warms up your muscle. Stretching on the other hand is either static or performed very slowly, which is just the opposite of a warm up.

When Should You Stretch?

 One issue is that the muscles don’t like to be stretched when they are cold. They will hardly be able to be “stretched” or lengthened as they are not supple and don’t like to “let go”. Therefore, the stretch is being transferred to the ligaments and tendons, and that’s not what we want.

So I recommend only stretching if your muscles are really warmed up, ideally after a workout or some physical activity. By the way, there is no evidence that stretching will prevent injury before physical activity, yet plenty of evidence that a warm up will.

Why Should You Stretch?

So why should we stretch? It’s to prevent your muscles from tightening after hard physical activity and giving the muscles the signal to let go which is controlled by your nervous system.

I do not recommend to use stretching alone to improve flexibility or range of motion. Stretching alone will not strengthen the muscles as there is no stabilizing of the joints required. This is better achieved through full range of motion exercises that involve a load on the muscles by using weight or resistance.

The Fundamentals Of Stretching

There are many different ways to stretch – from completely static (holding) to PNF (short term tension then letting go). I suggest you try different ways and see what feels best.

I prefer stretching against a rubber band, i.e. attached to a solid object and leaning against it or pulling the extended leg towards the chest with a rubber band. Rubber bands will “dampen” the pull on the muscles and can help with a more progressive and controlled stretch.

So stretch! Just know when and why.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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