Stretching is one of the most important components to a pain free body. Without regular stretching as a part of your overall health program, your body will have little chance of ever really getting out of the pain cycle. The reason for this is simple, and I am the best example of what I am about to tell you, since I've been a bad boy in the past and not stretched either.
What causes my muscles to get tight in the first place?
Answer: # One
Too much Lactic Acid in the muscles which forms during muscular activity is probably the single biggest reason for tight muscles. This occurs when you use your muscles in any way, even sitting at a computer or desk for long periods of time, not just on the football field or in the gym. Lactic Acid is a by product of sugar, or Glycogen, being burned as a fuel source when your lungs can't get the required amount of oxygen into them. You can tell when it has arrived by the burning feeling you get while exercising, though it doesn't always feel so obvious, it can creep up on you too. Once it gets in the muscles it will stay there and cause problems if you don't "drain it out". A major reason it stays is because we rarely cool down properly after a workout, and it can crystalize. By cooling down slowly and then stretching afterwards, we can reduce its effects.
Answer # Two:
Inactivity is another reason. If you sit for long periods of time, like at a desk in an office for example, your muscles and tendons will tend to shorten as a result, especially the Hamstrings, and when they go, It's only a matter of time before your lower back goes too. The problem here is, very few therapists, or doctors, will put all this together; Maybe they don't workout or stretch either. It's hard to teach what you don't even do for yourself isn't it?
When You Don't Feel Good You Don't Exercise
This brings me to my statement that "Without regular stretching as a part of your overall health program, your body will have little chance of ever really getting out of the pain cycle." I have found through observation that people wont exercise when they're all wound up. They tend to get sore very easily if they do workout, and this puts them off doing it again, when they know they should. They sustain injuries when working out, that become nagging chronic problems, and this too puts them off continuing. If one was to stretch sufficiently before, during and after exercise, they would probably feel a lot more positive about their physical training and overall health.
Why Don't I Just Do Some Yoga?
Yoga is good for those of us who are already flexible and have the mind set to enjoy it. A lot of people quit because they get don't get much out of it, or that they can't keep up with the other, more flexible students. So to keep my clients on track I offer to stretch them during the massage . This gives you the benefits of the warming up from the massage, and then being gently stretched while on the table, in a controlled and safe environment. After you have reached the point where you can go it alone, usually after you get some flexibility, you can do your stretching at home, in the office, on the job, at the track, and in the gym.
If you stretch when you are already too tight, it will stretch your tendons, and leave the contracted section of muscle (spasm) completely unaffected. You may feel good for a while afterward, then feel tight again in a few hours. Imagine that you took a bungy cord, this is your muscle, an put the middle section in the freezer, leaving the two end sections out, in room temperature. After an hour take the cord out and try to stretch it, which part of the cord do you think will stretch, and which part will not?
Another problem are the attatchments to the bone, the places where the muscle attaches. They will become inflamed if you continue to use a muscle that is tight or spasmed, one name for this is tendonitis. So as you can see, it's a good idea to keep the muscles supple and flexible.
Adam Ford 2001