#11 - Problem - Over-Stretching Muscles (Email to a Client)
In order to help resolve some of the serious issues you have in your body, especially low back pain, we need to take a close look at your stretch routines.
As I mentioned on the phone, I am highly experienced and proficient in several stretch techniques and have thousands of hours stretching patients and clients in my clinic and in athletic environments. Among other stretch techniques, I am highly schooled and qualified in Active Isolated Stretching, Soft Tissue Release Technique (similar to Active Release), Post Isometric Relaxation, Myofascial Release, and Neuromuscular Trigger Point Therapy.
I mention this to qualify what I am about to say about stretching.
1. Muscles themselves have similar properties to rubber bands. We can stretch them all day long and, at the end of the day, they return to their original shape.
2. We may think we are making progress with our stretching when we can move into deeper positions, such as being able to touch our toes, or being able to stretch our thigh to our chest. However, we need to look deeper into to what we are actually doing.
3. To make any long term change in our flexibility and mobility, we won't ever change the flexibility of the muscle itself, we will change the shape of the support structure around the muscle. This support comes from ligaments, fasciae, and the brain.
a) Ligaments are not meant to be stretched, ever. They are there to restrict movement. When we stretch ligaments, we make joints loose and the surrounding area vulnerable to injury.
b) All muscles and actually all structures within the body are surrounded and interpenetrated by fascia. Fascia is a network of strong support tissue that weaves throughout the body like a matrix. When we change the shape of the fascia in one area of the body, the entire body is affected, one way or another.
c) The brain stores all our programs for movement. In the end, the brain will build programs to either allow movement or restrict it. If the brain feels we can move through a full range of motion without tightness or injury, it will allow a full and powerful movement. If it feels tightness through any movement, it will restrict that movement in an effort to protect.
d) An important thing to consider is that the program part of our brain does not care about any of our performance goals. The major part of its function is protection.
Since I invented ROTEXMotion in 2007, I have developed a much different view of creating flexibility, mobility and stability.
1. Muscles that are continually stretched and never strengthened become weak and non-functional. They also pre-dispose an area of the body to injury, such as the low back, hips, spine, and shoulders, among other parts.
2. A muscle that is strong is functionally more flexible and injury resistant than a weak over-stretched muscle.
3. While stretching may be useful in some situations, it is counter-intuitive and counter-productive in most. (I say that as a highly qualified clinician skilled and experienced in several stretch techniques.)
I think that is enough to ponder for now. My next email will be about the three most misunderstood and over-stretched muscles in the body - hamstrings, gluteals and the hip flexors (mainly psoas major). Over stretching and under strengthening these muscles is a huge mistake and we need to change our thinking about them.
Dr. Joe LaCaze, DC, NMT, PES, CCEP, Spinal Biomechanics Instructor