Flexibility, Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stretching

Four types of stretching, which is the best?

Regardless of which physiotherapist you see or which sport you have played in your lifetime, you are bound to have heard or been told that stretching is good for you.

The truth? It is, BUT… there are different types of stretching and it is important you use the right type of stretching at the right time!

Being aware of the possible risks of each type of stretching could make a difference to your likelihood of injury or even your performance!

The main types of stretching are; Static, Dynamic, Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation and Ballistic.

8stretching-istock159682821Static Stretching is the type of stretching that we all know well.  You tension a muscle until you feel a stretch, then hold for  a period of time (usually 20-30 seconds).

Pros:

  • Increases the extensibility of the muscle(s) stretched
  • With prolonged repetition can increase muscle length

Cons:

  • It can increase the risk of injury if done before exercise because of an increased risk of instability.
  • Has been shown to reduce muscle power by 7-8% and muscular endurance by up to 30% for up to 24 hours.

When is it appropriate? After exercise to release tightened muscles and if you are looking to increase overall flexibility and muscle length.

Dynamic stretching is a stretching technique that we may not all be familiar with.  It uses momentum to stretch a muscle for a short period within its range of motion.  Below is a video that runs through an example of a dynamic stretch.

 

Pros:

  • Has shown to improve muscular strength, power, endurance and agility
  • Appropriate during a pre-exercise warm up without compromising stability

Cons:

  • Does not provide an overall lengthening of muscles
  • Can be hard to perform without demonstration or clear instruction

When is it appropriate? Before exercise and daily during rehabilitation programs if appropriate.

Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation is simply shortened to PNF.  It is a form of stretching with the aim of providing large increases in range of motion in a short time by contracting opposing muscles against a passive stretch, or in other words, pushing against a static stretch.

Pros:pnf-stretches

  • Can produce large increases in range of motion and muscle extensibility in a short time
  • Facilitates muscle inhibition to allow spasmodic or tight muscles relax

Cons:

  • Has the same effects on muscle power and endurance as static stretching
  • Can lead to injury if not performed correctly and safely

When is it appropriate? After exercise to release tightened muscles, to release muscle spasm and as part of exercise programs to increase flexibility and performance. It is, however, not always necessary and you should consult your physiotherapist on how to do these stretches correctly and to determine which stretches are most appropriate for you.

Ballistic Stretching is similar to static stretching, but involves a bouncing at end of range.  It is not Screen-Shot-2012-08-07-at-9_41_03-PM1recommended as it is not shown to have any lasting benefits and there is an increased risk of injury when performing the stretches.

For more examples of stretches, feel free to view some of our other posts by clicking the links below.

https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2013/11/25/4-tips-for-effective-calf-stretching/

https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2014/02/21/avoid-the-hump-the-stiff-thoracic-spine/

https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2014/03/20/morning-stretches/

https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2014/03/18/best-hamstring-stretching-technique/

Post by Mitchell Sandvoss (B. Physiotherapy)

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abdominals, back, Core stability, Daily Exercises, Gymn Dangers, Hips, Improving Movement, Injuries, Physio's Personal Tips, Physiotherapy, Pilates, Stability

How stable is your core?? Here’s how to check!

personaltrainerOften, people spend hours doing “core training” in the gym such as sit-ups, planks and the like only to find that they still experience symptoms of instability such as low back pain during training or, they get injured regularly doing exercise. The problem? This kind of “core training” addresses the strength of your abdominal and oblique muscles which are responsible for providing movement but does not train the deeper, stabilising muscles that are responsible for maintaining good alignment of the spine.

Here is a little exercise to introduce the feeling and the essence of stability in you torso. The true “core”:

1. Lie on your back, knees up, feet flat on the ground.

2. Breath, and feel how your ribs move and the shape of your spine changes.

3. Place your index fingers on the bones at the top of your pelvis at the front.

4. Feel what happens when you lift one foot from the floor REALLY SLOWLY!!! No jumping it up!!!

5. Try again and try to not allow any movement in your pelvis or lumbar spine.

Did you hold your breath? Did your pelvis roll toward the side you lifted? Did your back arch away from the floor? Did you get a “ping” of back  pain?

If YES was an answer to any of these questions you have room for improvement in you core stabilisation.

Practicing this exercise is actually a great way to begin the reactivation of your deeper, stabilising muscles.  Breathing as you move and load the spine is essential to prevent rigidity. Our bodies are designed to be fluid and coordinated when moving and breath holding can stifle this and cause us to become to stiff when moving! If you don’t breath while you do anything you won’t do it for very long!!

Mullumbimby-Pilates

For detailed explanation of core stability refer to our previous blog “What is core stability?”. You can find it here: https://northernbeachesphysio.com/2014/03/28/what-is-core-stability/.

Also, watch this video of one of physiotherapists, Angus, walking through the above exercise and explaining how to activate your core!

Alarm Clock
Daily Exercises, Gluteal, Improving Movement, Injuries, Lifestyle, Physio's Personal Tips, Physiotherapy

Morning stretches!

Stretches in the morning:

Spinal stiffness and pain is a common complaint. This can be caused by inflammation, arthritis or muscular tightness as well as injuries such as bulging discs.

The impact of spinal symptoms can easily be reduced by doing a regular morning stretching session.

Generally, I advise my patients to wait 20-30 minutes after rising from bed before they commence spinal stretching. This is to allow the discs to compress slightly after they have been expanding during sleep. This reduces the risk of injury to the discs.

Following is a list of great exercises to do in the morning to get your spine moving!

Knees to chest rocking: bring the knees to the chest and tuck up in a gentle rocking motion 10 times.

CurlRock

Sciatic nerve stretches: using a long belt stretch the leg as shown by gently moving the ankle forward and back, keeping the leg straight.

HamstringAnim2

Piriformis and gluteal stretches: place the ankle of one leg on the knee of the other and lift both legs up toward you as shown, hold for 20-30 seconds as you pull the stretching leg toward the opposite shoulder and push into the ankle with the opposite knee.

GluteStretch

Open book stretch: lying on your side as shown, breathe in as you take your top arm across your body, allowing your head and shoulders to turn with it. Hold the stretch and breathe out. Repeat 10 times both sides.

Thoracic Open Book stretch

Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Sports, Stretching

Best hamstring stretching technique

If you spend a lot of time at a desk or do a lot of physical activity such as running and cycling then it is likely that you will have tightness in your hamstrings. Tightness in the hamstring muscle group can lead to knee pain, back pain and can increase the risk of tearing the hamstrings during activity.

To effectively isolate and stretch the hamstring muscle group it is crucial that your technique is right. There are a number of different “hamstring stretches” out there but the following video outlines the best way to get a strong isolated stretch into the hamstrings!

Let us know your reactions to our blogs – we’d love to hear from you, critiques, queries, compliments all gratefully accepted.

Post by Angus Tadman B. App. Sc (Phty) Hons Class I

Gluteal, Hips, Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stability

Happy Hips

Whether you are a walker, a runner, footballer or even a belly-dancer, everyone needs good hip stability to be able to perform their sport (or their art) with optimum control.

Belly Dancers Hips

Poor stability around the hip joint can lead to problems such as trochanteric bursitis, lower back pain, sciatic pain and groin injuries. If you have one of these problems it is possible that you have weakness and poor control of the deep muscles of your hip joint.

Hip stability is achieved by having not only strength of the big gluteal muscles that make up the bulk of your buttocks but also good timing of activation and control of the deeper muscles of the hip joint. These deep muscles are responsible for stabilising the hip joint during movement to allow the larger gluteal muscles to move your hip with better joint alignment.

Hips Start

Knees bent, pelvis tilted

To test your deep hip stability simply follow these steps:

1) Stand in front of a mirror with your knees slightly bent (around 30 degrees) and your pelvis tilted forwards.

Now place your hands on your hips to feel the muscles just behind your hip with your thumbs and your abdomen with fingertips.

Hip exercise

Hips always level

2) Gently transfer your weight to one side, aiming to keep your knee, hip and shoulder aligned on the side that you are leaning toward e.g. your hips stay level with the ground.

Hold for a few seconds then transfer your weight to the other foot, again keeping your hips level.

If you have good stability you should be able to do this and maintain alignment of your hips, knees and shoulders, as shown in the animated image on the left, and you will feel the muscles activate strongly.

If you have poor stability you will find it hard to keep your balance and you may see your hips drop or your shoulders sway too far out to the side, as shown below.

Happy Hips Wrong

Left – hips crooked, Centre starting position. Right – hips crooked

Practicing this simple movement daily can help to improve the stability of your hip joint.

Keep it up! Remember; stable hips are happy hips!

Post by Angus Tadman B. App. Sc (Phty) Hons Class I

Daily Exercises, Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stretching

Avoid the Hump – the stiff thoracic spine

Do you spend hours bent over a workstation? Does your job involve repetitive bending and heavy lifting? Do you, like so many of us in recent years, use a tablet, smart phone or laptop computer for hours every day?

Thoracic HumpIf you answered yes to any of the above then it is very likely that you will have developed stiffness in your upper back.  This ‘thoracic region’ is the largest part of our spine.  It starts at the base of your neck and ends just above the lower back.

As a result of daily habits, like those described above, and poor posture, the thoracic spine is more likely to become stiff.   This may not present as a major problem initially but it can have flow-on effects to the lower back, neck and shoulders.

The most immediate obvious effect of thoracic stiffness is in an increase in the natural curvature of your upper back and causes you to stand with “rounded shoulders”. This poor posture that we so often adopt as a result of laziness of our muscles eventually becomes permanent as the joints lose their ability to move back into a more upright position!

There are two wonderfully effective stretches that can help to increase thoracic spine mobility:

1)    The open book stretch: Lay on your side as shown. Breathe in as you move your top arm across your body and turn your head and shoulders with it, keeping your knee firmly placed on the floor. Breathe out as you hold the stretch for around ten to fifteen seconds, then return to the start and repeat 10 times.

Thoracic Open Book stretch

2)    Extension over ball: Place a small inflatable ball on the floor – an exercise ball is best as it is quite squishy but a soft soccer ball will also do. Lay over the ball positioned between your shoulder blades. Make sure your head is supported on a pillow or a rolled up towel and your legs are bent. Stretch for 2 minutes with your arms overhead, breathing fully and relaxing into the stretch.

Lay over ball

Post by Angus Tadman B. App. Sc (Phty) Hons Class I

Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stability

5 exercises to keep your shoulder stable and healthy

The key to a healthy, pain free and strong shoulder is a stable scapula (or shoulder blade) which is the base from which all shoulder movement occurs. It is the bone where the “socket” of your shoulder is found and to which the “ball” of your upper arm (humerus) connects.

Losing scapula stability is often the first step toward developing painful injuries such as rotator cuff tears, subacromial bursitis and arthritis.

The following exercises are very effective for improving scapula stability and therefore improving shoulder function. Please keep in mind that you should never have pain during or after doing these exercises. If you do, please consult a physiotherapist before continuing.

scapulaScapula Clock#1.Scapula clock: Stand close to a wall with your elbow bent. Place your hand on a small ball on the wall just below shoulder height. Roll your shoulder blade back and down and hold it set in this position.

Make circles alternating from clockwise to counterclockwise with your hand on the ball while maintaining your shoulder set. Repeat 10 times each way.

Pull Downs#2. Pull downs: Using a cable or theratube secured above you.

Pull down with straight arms to the side of body and simultaneously draw your shoulder blades back and down to feel muscular squeeze in the middle part of your back just below the shoulder blades.

Repeat 10-20 times.

Wall Push Ups#3. Wall push ups: Place hands on wall below shoulder height and slightly wider than shoulder width.

Stand with feet together and away from wall so you are weight bearing through your arms and hands.

Do slow push ups on the wall being mindful to keep the shoulders back and down as you press toward wall.

As you press away from the wall roll the shoulder blades around the ribcage to arch the upper spine.  Repeat 10 times.

4 Point Kneeling#4. Four point kneeling: Assume four point kneeling position.

Take weight forward so your nose is in front of your fingertips. Bend elbows and take shoulders down away from your ears.

Keep shoulders back and down and maintain stability on one arm as you lift the other out in front.  Repeat on the other side and do 5-10 repetitions.

Ball Roll#5. Roll out on ball: Assume start position as pictured.

Ensure shoulders, hips and knees are aligned and support weight on hands.

Slowly roll the ball out in front of you, keeping your body aligned and extend the arms away from the body to allow the elbows and forearms to rest on the ball.

Maintain shoulder blades down and back. Repeat 10 times.

Post by Angus Tadman

Improving Movement, Physiotherapy, Stretching

4 Tips for Effective Calf Stretching

Stretching the calf muscleImportant after any extended walking, running, golf or weight bearing sport!

1)    Ensure the foot is directly in line with the leg. Toes not turned out as is often the case.

2)    To get an effective stretch you need more pressure than just stepping backwards so press into a wall or bench with hands or forearms.

3)    Roll the heel backwards so the very back of the heel is on the ground and lift the toes just a little.

4)    Straighten the knee completely feeling tightness in the muscles above the knee, lifting the knee cap.

Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds to get effective lengthening through the entire length of the calf muscles.

Note : in the case of Achilles tendonitis this is not suggested as it tends to aggravate the tendon.