The Dark Side of Stretching and the Unsubstantiated Claims That Follows
Last week an image
surfaced on a Facebook page where the user was performing a stretch.
While the stretch was by no means novel the claims associated with
performing this stretch could very well be misleading. It lists a bunch
of muscles that will be stretched and strengthened, and says the stretch
will keep the spine strong and flexible. It also said that it would
relieve tension in the spine and other areas, and can reduce feelings
like depression and anxiety. After reading all this, this quite
literally felt like the stretch of the century.
What’s fascinating is
there were people who “loved” the image and I’m sure some viewers
genuinely believed the information presented without even giving it a
second thought. The comment section was mixed; from “it puts excess
pressure on the spine” to practitioners who said they’ve done this and
taught people, but many don’t follow the proper instructions. So why do
it anyway? Why place people in a position where they could seriously
hurt themselves, and what’s worse, are any of those health claims true?
Let’s dig into this
as posture professionals. Whether a stretch can truly reduce stress,
depression, and anxiety is questionable. This feels like one of those to
each their own situations, because some will undoubtedly feel that
their worries won’t vanish by stretching, while others will stand by the
fact that it could serve as an aid to relieving the mind. Many
stretches come with appropriate breathing techniques and said techniques
have been shown to assist the mind. So, as for the stretch itself maybe
it’s not so good at doing these things after all.
Have you ever thought
of how stretching can yield a negative outcome from a posture
perspective? Let’s say you’re told to perform an unsupported deep
forward bend and you’re told it helps get rid of headaches and stretches
the spine. Stretching sounds good, no headaches means fewer problems,
right? That stretch, with its questionable headache removing claim, will
undoubtedly put strain on your spine.
Some stretches aren’t
for everyone and many are downright dangerous for them. Some techniques
are best left to the flexible and well-trained athletes and yogis and
not the general public. Let’s remember, most members of the general
public aren’t highly trained, prepared, or even flexible it’s highly
recommended they avoid dangerous stretches. Simplicity and more
conservative approach are best for said members.
What’s also important
to note here is what’s being stretched and becoming loose, and the
impacts these have on joints, tendons, and ligaments. Going back to the
forward bend stretch mentioned earlier, some people will most certainly
feel the stretch in the lower back, but besides putting some pressure it
could also be stretching the ligaments and tendons. Some muscles may be
stretched and become weaker, and as a result will be more prone to
So, let’s revisit
what we learned so far. Some stretches are best left for the super
flexible and they may not give the user the relief they’ve been told
they’d receive. It’s often difficult to determine the legitimacy of the
claims made especially without the proper research. For this reason we,
the informed professionals, need to speak up and address these concerns.
If it looks like it’s too good to be true and it’s not from a proper
source, call it out. Discuss it on your page or with your clients so
someone else doesn’t need to do it.
This is also a call
for proper stretching habits. There are a number of other techniques
that can be used to help stretch the muscles and keep the body limber,
but they need to be performed with proper form and balance. Special care
needs to be taken with stretching as it should also follow a proper
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