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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.


[National Posture Institute] The Dark Side of Stretching and the Unsubstantiated Claims That Follows


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 injury.


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 warm up.


I want to invite you to fill out our 2018 State Of The Industry: Trends Survey. Please take a moment to fill out the survey; we appreciate the feedback as it helps. Also, share it with a fitness and/or health friend, the more the merrier. Here’s the survey: http://www.surveyshare.com/s/AYAYHSD


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