Stretching is a great companion to massage therapy, for the right conditions. Stretch Therapy aims to increase flexibility, range of movement, increase circulation, and to increase the elasticity of the connective tissues which can help our body to move more freely and avoid the risk of injury. Understanding the condition of your muscles is very important before engaging in stretching.
Often we feel pain in a muscle that is already stretched, due to its opposing muscle being too tight. So knowing which muscles to stretch and which to avoid stretching is important. A session with a Remedial Massage Therapist can assist in providing you with this knowledge as well as the best stretches for you.
Types of Stretching
Stretching can either be static (no movement) or dynamic (with movement).
Static Stretching: Stretching a muscle at its maximal point in a relaxed state while holding the position for at least 30 seconds, it can either be active (no external force creating stretch) or passive (external force creating stretch).
Active Static Stretching requires a process called reciprocal inhibition; this means that even though one muscle is relaxed another muscle will have to contract or activate to be able to stretch the relaxed muscle. For example, if we were stretching our hamstrings by sitting down on the floor with our legs in a V shape we’d have to activate certain muscles to lean forward or to the side to create a stretch for the hamstring. A lot of people may use this type of stretching to cool down after a workout as it is done by relaxing our muscles and it can give our body a signal to calm down the nervous system. This type of stretching can help calm down the nervous system, increase circulation, and increase static flexibility.
Active stretching is also a part of a Remedial Massage Treatment, as Active Assisted Stretching. Your therapist may use a pin and stretch technique on your soft tissues as required to assist elongating shortened muscles or diffusing painful trigger points, while avoiding this for elongated muscles.
Passive Static Stretching: this type of stretching is similar to active static stretching but with the help of an external force such as a qualified PT or props such as a resistance band. In this stretch the person who is getting stretched will have their whole body in a relaxed state allowing a deeper and more intense stretch.
Dynamic Stretching: stretching a muscle while performing controlled movement that can provide a gentle stretch, the movement can be repeated 8-12 times. Dynamic stretching is usually used to mimic a certain movement pattern before an activity, helping our body rehearse and get used to a movement, before performing it to our full extent. This type of stretching can help improve range of movement, increase circulation, and increase dynamic flexibility, while also activating the neuromuscular system to improve performance. You would ideally execute this type of stretch prior to exercise.
Now that you know about the different types of stretching you can ensure you use the right execution to improve your fitness regime, and protect your muscles. If you are feeling pain though, it is important that you get a proper assessment to make sure you aren’t opposing what your body needs.
Combining massage therapy and stretching, can enhance our body’s wellbeing. Many massage therapists may include stretching within their practice, either in the session via soft tissue stretch or by providing you with stretches to add to your general routine (or both). So to improve your flexibility and range of movement, include both regular massage treatments and stretching into your health regime!