To stretch or not to Stretch?
Updated: Sep 6, 2022
When we have pain, discomfort or a feeling of tightness in our muscles, it is common to stretch or massage the discomfort out.
The problem with being fixated to that approach, is that just because it hurts or "feels tight" doesn't mean it is tight (as in a shorted muscle). More often than not, I see that people have pain and a perception of tightness in muscles that are actually over stretched or very under active. By under active, I mean under developed, or not firing properly (not receiving proper communication form the nervous system).
A very common example is lateral low back pain. Hip hike is when one side of the pelvis is higher than the other, giving the appearance of one leg being longer than the other. Pain is often felt in the Quadratus Lumborum (QL). Logically one would think the pain would be felt on the side where the muscle is short and tight, but the opposite is nearly always true (in my clinical experience). It is the QL and multifidus muscles that are over stretched and have very little muscle tone to them, that elicits the pain. Because of that, people stretch that side, and only that side, day after day, and then come in to have it released more through massage.
After proper assessment, I am able to communicate the imbalance to my clients and explain to them that we will be relaxing the side that is working too much (the high hip side) and strengthening that side that hurts. They then go home after learning how to properly stretch the side that doesn't hurt, and strengthen the side that hurts.
Whether seeking relief from acute or chronic pain, if you want long term results, it is best to figure out what is causing the pain, rather than focusing on the site of pain. It is much like the concentric rings that are formed when you drop a pebble into a still body of water. We might feel the pain in the 10th ring out, but the cause of that 10th ring came from the pebble at the center ring.