To Stretch or Not To Stretch?
Stretching in active ways can help create better joint mobility and healthy muscle tone, however we need to know when stretching is helpful and when it is not.
Let’s use our neck and shoulders as a common example of stress and tension. If we are looking down at our phones and computers, and frequently in forward head posture, the muscles at the back of the neck lengthen over time. This could result in feelings of tightness or soreness in the neck because the muscles are working overtime to keep your head upright. Our instinct is to stretch these unhappy muscles, but what they need is concentric muscle activation (contraction). Healthy muscle tissue is a bit like an elastic band: it lengthens and contracts. With too much length, it will become rigid, with too little length it won’t have enough tension to offer support.
An Exercise to Replace Neck Stretching
Here is an exercise you can try at home the next time you feel neck tension.
- Place one hand on top of the opposite shoulder and find the belly of the muscle.
- Start to squeeze your hand gently over the muscle as you glide the shoulder towards the ear.
- As you let the shoulder relax down again, let the tension release from your hand.
- Repeat 6-8X and do the same on the other side.
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