I have a serious bone to pick with stretching...
I get asked every day, "Do you have any good stretches for x...y...z...?"
Nobody ever asks for endurance, strength or stability exercises.
Stretching is the answer for everything!
What did stretching do to get so much respect?
Why do people thing stretching is the key to all their physical ailments?
Let's talk about it, ok?
First, when people think of stretching, they most likely are referring to long, slow static stretching. You know, the kind of stuff you did in gym class where you had to sit with one leg out and reach your toes for 30-60 seconds.
Or they might be thinking of pilates...or yoga. (Neither of which are supported by research to be a source of significant relief for low back pain)
Here's the thing with that type of stuff.
Deep, long and slow stretching down-regulates your nervous system and can actually cause your brain to think an injury is about to happen. While the sensation you feel during the stretch is good and you may find immediate relief of pain symptoms, the neurological response over the next few hours will be to protect and guard, resulting in more tightness and a return of pain.
I know...it's weird.
How can something that feels so good be potentially harmful, or at the very least counterproductive to your efforts to loosen up and feel more free. The answer to this question is found in my old textbooks from university.
Basically, there are sensors in your body that detect both how far and how fast your muscles are being stretched. If the stretch goes past the threshold of what can be tolerated, the muscle will tighten up and become painful again. This is a safety measure built into our nervous system to help prevent serious injury.
To be frank, stretching likely isn't the solution to low back pain.
Check this YouTube video for some interesting perspectives by Dr. Stuart McGill:
Instead of stretching, the proper approach is to build muscular endurance into the areas of the body that have a poor work capacity, followed by strengthen and stability exercises.
Mobility exercises are part of a well-rounded program to return function to the low back. However, there are far better choices than long, slow static stretching to achieve those ends.
If you are struggling with low back pain, schedule an appointment in the clinic.
We can discuss the benefits of RAPID Neurofascial Reset to help relieve pain and restore function and work together to design an exercise plan that gets you back on your feet, doing the things you enjoy!