Is ‘the Ouch’ from Stretching Bad For You?

If you’ve visited my clinic, you may have heard me speak about how helpful a few applied stretches can be.  

Accurate stretching, ( and by accurate, I mean, for the muscles at the root cause of symptoms) can cut recovery from exercise in half, gain more flexible faster;  and not have you stop work several times a day from stiffness.

Yes, you may even know this

But what if you feel the ‘ouch’ of discomfort when you stretch?

The first thing you need to know is; There’s a difference between feeling ‘discomfort’ and feeling ‘sting’ when stretching.

Discomfort:  when stretching is an indication the muscles are moderately tight/tense
Sting:  when stretching can either indicate your muscles; are very tight, almost to the point of cramp, or the muscle has a rupture (recent ripping from exercise or injury)

Generally, when muscle pain is caused by tightness of the muscle(s) it’s like a rubber band secured between two sticks – being tugged at in the centre.  It pulls (or tries to) off the sticks.

So when you stretch, you’re taking the sticks further from each other, making the rubber band go taut.  THIS is where the discomfort usually appears.  

This is a 100% normal reaction your body has in place.  It’s to prevent you from over-pulling ( and thus breaking) the muscles.  The discomfort reaction so we basically don’t pull our muscles to shreds. Nifty Eh!

Moderate stretching discomfort is normal.  Discomfort is actually your indicator that you’re doing it correctly!

THE BEST WAY to make the most of this moment – is to allow a small to moderate amount of discomfort to arise … and whilst holding the stretch, wait patiently for the discomfort ( I often call it the ‘pull’) to subside as completely as you have time for.   Wait for the fade.

The fade may take ten seconds, it may take one minute. 

The fade is another indicator your muscles are lengthening ( your rubber band is getting longer) and therefore less and less taut.

Your body will release the muscle in its best time. 

If you can wait for the fade – you’ll give your body an effective tool to enhance its capabilities and movement.