Stretching can be highly beneficial if done properly. If done improperly, it can cause pain. Here are some helpful tips to ensure you are stretching safely and preventing injury:
- Always warm up before stretching. Stretching a cold muscle increases the risk of pulls or tears. Think of your muscles like you would a rubber band. It’s easy to stretch a warm rubber band, but if you try to stretch a cold one, you risk cracking or breaking it. Your best bet is to stretch after warming up or at the end of your workout.
- Do not lock your joints when you stretch. Keep joints like the elbows and knees slightly bent to avoid unnecessary stress on the joints.
- Never hold your breath while stretching. Try to breathe normally, in through the nose and out through the mouth. This will make your stretching a more relaxing experience.
- Take your time. The long-sustained, mild stretch reduces unwanted muscle tension and tightness.
- Do not compare yourself with others. Everyone has different degrees of flexibility. Comparisons may lead to overstretching.
- If you have had a hip replacement, do not cross your legs or bend your hips past a 90-degree angle during any of your stretching exercises.
- Avoid bouncing while stretching and other high-force, short-duration stretches that use rapid motions or momentum. You have far less control during this type of stretch and therefore a greater potential risk of injury. It does not allow your muscles to adjust to, and relax in, the stretched position. It may instead cause them to tighten up by repeatedly activating the stretch reflex.
- Never stretch to the point of pain. If it hurts, stop.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about any current or former musculoskeletal injuries or problems that might affect your ability to stretch safely and effectively.