Yes, One Can Stretch Too Much

When we’re healing from injury, we’re often told that the muscles need stretching. Indeed, stretching can be incredibly therapeutic but it must be approached cautiously, especially if there’s been an injury. I wrote sometime ago about a lower back injury I was dealing with after plunging into the Spring gardening. The process of recovery was not straight forward as I’d have setbacks. Just little bits of too much activity brought me back to square one, again, and then again.  Amazing how fragile an injury can be.  One time, I was simply doing some mild bending forward as I transplanted tomato starts into larger pots.  I’d done a great job (I thought) of setting myself up for the activity in as ergonomically a way as possible.  And yet, after 20 minutes or so… drat, that SI joint, tweaky again.

Now, had I stopped, gotten my ice pack out again and iced and rested it, I think I may have been a whole lot better off.  Instead, I thought movement and stretching might be a good thing. Wrong!  My whole sacral area seized up. Especially when an injury is acute, resting, icing and if possible and appropriate compression and elevation (R.I.C.E.) are a great way to start. Even after the injury is no longer acute, it is wise to keep in mind that when we stretch we should really only stretch to “the stretch point”. That’s to the first increment, perhaps even just a shadow of discomfort or tightness. Hold there and then in a short time, that discomfort should let up. At that point, you may try to go just a bit further, holding there and waiting for a release. Sharon Butler describes this very well in her book, Conquering Carpal Tunnel, an excellent book for any sort of upper body injuries due to repetitive stress.

When we’re not dealing with an injury, it’s possible to go further with stretching but still it’s important to be mindful and not go too far. I’ve seen many an injured body from going too far in a yoga class. As Wendy Bramlett from Studio Be in Boulder would often say, it’s important to always have movement in a pose. If we’re stretched to the point of being nearly frozen in a pose with no room to give. We’ve gone too far. More is not always better!

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