Maintaining Normal Joint Range of Motion is key for overall wellness. It can help alleviate pain associated with musculoskeletal problems, aid in the prevention of aggravating an old injury and increase circulation for muscles and nerves. Polly deMille, Exercise Physiologist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center, shares her top tips for increasing flexibility.
1. Warm up before you stretch! Stretching is NOT a warm-up. Stretching cold muscles can increase risk of injury so perform a light cardiovascular warm-up prior to stretching. Warm muscles will be more pliable and you’ll get a safer, more effective stretch.
2. Perform dynamic rather than static stretching prior to activity. Dynamic stretching involves gradually moving to the limits of your range of motion. An example would be 15 leg swings gradually increasing your range and stretching your hamstrings as your leg swings. There is no “holding the stretch” in dynamic stretching.
3. Perform static stretching after activity. Take a muscle or group of muscles to their farthest point without pain and hold the stretch for at least 20 seconds. Repeat 2-4 times.
4. Perform a balanced stretching routine. Be sure to stretch both the front and back of your body. Pay particular attention to areas that are especially tight. The stretches that are the most challenging for you are often the ones you need the most.
5. Stretch frequently. Flexibility gains are hard won and easily lost. Stretch the areas that are particularly tight daily and if possible, more than once a day.
6. Make sure you are stretching the muscle safely. Some common stretches (such as a hurdler’s stretch) may place your knee in a compromised position. You should not feel strain, pressure or pain in a joint when you are trying to stretch a muscle.
Polly de Mille is the coordinator of performance services at the Tisch Sports Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery. In addition to being a registered nurse, she holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a registered clinical exercise physiologist, exercise specialist and exercise test technologist. She is also a certified USAT Level 1 triathlon coach.