From our patient letter  "Pain Free News"

Last updated on January 27, 2021

Woman doing an easy stretch

At some time in a consultation, most people will break down and confess.

Patients are either guilty about not stretching at all...
Or guilty about not stretching enough.
But why feel bad?

In practice, stretching does sweet nothing for most people. At best it's a waste of time. At worst it can intensify  pain and reduce your  flexibility.

Bad news.
Why is it like this?
Because stretching is veeeery difficult to do well.
It is a counter-intuitive activity that we have no instinctive feel for.

The fundamental problem is that what seems like a good stretch, tends to be an overstretch.
And the good stretch you are looking for feels like nothing. As a result (almost) everyone overstretches.

Many people have  the idea that they must overpower their bodies to get flexible. The more the muscle resists, the harder they pull. The tighter it feels, the more leverage they use. Sadly the result of this heaving is always going to be more stiffness and pain.

When you treat your body like the opposing team in a tug-of-war contest, it will always pull back harder and dump you in the river!

What's the answer then?

Think of your body as an ultrasensitive, tension balancing machine. It's not just a lump of meat to be wrenched into line.
Realise that you are triggering a reflex response not just hauling on a rope. Your aim is to find the  precise amount of pull that  makes your muscle give way.

The stretching sweet spot.

Try backing off 20% from what you feel is a "good" stretch and you will be getting close.
It won't feel satisfying.
It may seem like nothing is happening.

But afterwards, you will feel looser and more limber.

Philip Hambly