• Car Accidents and Massage

    Your insurance will pay for therapeutic massage therapy for up to 2 years after a car accident! We bill directly to the insurance company and you have nothing to do but heal and feel good!

    read more
  • Pain & Massage Therapy

    Stop the pain and start living again with Massage Therapy!

    read more
  • Benefits of Massage Therapy

    You would be surprised how much medical massage therapy can help!

    read more
  • Medical Massage Therapist

    Over 18 years experience in Massage Therapy working on thousands of clients

    read more
  • Massage Therapy Testimonials

    Massage Therapy Works! Don’t take my word for it!

    read more

Stretch, Stretch, Stretch!

One of the major difference my clients see between me and other therapists is my including stretching during the massage and my advice to stretch regularly afterwards. Stretching has been taught for centuries and can be easily observed in nature when animals get up from a nap. Why is something so easy and time tested so hard to do? My personal opinion is that so many do not know the answers to how, why and when to stretch. Without these guidelines many my attempt to stretch because they know they should, but quickly tire and give up since they have not been give the proper direction.

Lets first talk about the different types of stretching activities. There are basically two types of stretches, static and dynamic. Static is just like it sounds. You bend, twist, turn your body or appendage until you feel a stretch then hold it for an indefinite period of time. This is the kind of stretching we are all taught in school and sometimes we were even taught to “bounce” when we have reached our “end point” of the stretch. DO NOT DO THIS! E-V-E-R! Stretching a muscle until it is taunt then “bouncing” into the stretch to help us go farther is damaging the muscle fibers. Yes, you can move farther, but most likely you have just torn muscle fibers to accomplish that. This brings me to the next type of stretching, dynamic or active stretching.

Again, the name explains the difference. Instead of just bending, turning, twisting ourselves into pretzels and waiting for eternity, dynamic stretching can be done quite quickly and dramiatically decrease the chances of “over-stretching” or tearing muscle tissue. The principle is basic. Move your joint or body to whatever position you would normally get into to preform a stretch, once you start to “feel” it, then activate the muscle just every so slightly for 15 seconds. Then relax the muscle and proceed to stretch it a little farther. You will be amazed at the ease at which your body or limb will move. Continue doing this for 3-5 sets and then stop. The whole stretch should only take you 60 seconds per muscle group. There is another form of active stretching that involves your antagonist muscles. For example, the antagonist to your Biceps muscle is your Triceps muscle because it does the exact opposite movement. Continuing with this example, if you have very tight biceps, you might want to try stretching them by getting to your “end range” then contracting your tricep muscle for 15 seconds. Depending on which muscle group you are stretching this might be difficult to do on your own. After 15 seconds relax and proceed to move slightly farther.

By using active or dynamic stretching instead of static stretching, you will be amazed at the speed to which the muscle stretches, thus saving you much time. This process is also a safer way to stretch since you avoid the possibility of tearing muscle tissue by overstretching. The third benefit is that by using the muscle or its antagonist you are increase your brain/muscle connection. By doing this you are helping to retrain your brain to know your muscle has now been lengthened. This third benefit is especially crucial when you stretch before playing sports. This is why so many feel they hurt themselves if they stretch before activity. Which brings me to my final point, when to stretch.

When should we stretch? Much depends on our lifestyle and our body’s condition. If you are a office worker who is constantly in a seated position then you might want to consider stretching your hamstrings and gluteal muscle on a daily basis. Why not on your break, while still seated in your chair? Again, the benefits of active stretching is that it only take a few minutes to stretch a few muscle groups. If you have an active job or play a lot of sports, I would always consider it logical to stretch before AND afterwards. Just spend 5 minutes warming up, do some quick active stretches on the areas most in need and repeat afterwards. By spending just a few minutes a day stretching we can avoid so much pain later on in our lives by keeping our muscles healthy and flexible.

I offer stretching in my office and can help demonstrate some specific stretches for your problem areas. Please feel free to call and ask questions anytime.

Written by Jamin Rak

Therapeutic Massage Therapist located in Portland, OR Specializing in: Acute and Chronic Pain including Car Accident Recovery. State of Oregon license #6827. Licensed since 1999. https://plus.google.com/+jaminrak

9 Comments to “Stretch, Stretch, Stretch!”

  1. Ross says:

    Regarding this dynamic stretching of which you speak, I learned a technique called PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation). It sort of looks like what you just described, but instead of taking a total of 60 seconds, it takes about 3 minutes or so. 30 seconds of stretch at the point at which you begin to feel a stretch, move back to neutral and contract the muscle for 5 seconds, then stretch at (what will be a new point) for 30 seconds, then contract, then stretch then contract.

    Also, with any stretching routine, you must include a strengthening routine. Being limber is one thing, but being strong is something else entirely. Being strong and limber and your clients won’t need to see you, which … I think … is the point.

    • Gary Addis says:

      Ross, that’s I believe an incorrect description of PNF. It doesn’t take 3 minutes or so, it doesn’t take 60 seconds to facilitate stretch. Here is how I was taught to do it:
      For instance, to stretch hamstrings, the LMT moves the knee toward the chest till the client indicates the end point is reached. Now ask the client to use roughly 20% of his strength to pull the leg toward the table for a count of 8 while the Mt resists. The client is told to relax, the MT immediately extends the stretch. This is repeated maybe twice–the degree of ROM increase can be astonishing.

      • Jamin Rak says:

        The 60 seconds was in reference to total stretch time per muscle. I was not saying you need to contract the muscle for 60 seconds in order to proceed with a PNF technique.

      • Casey Holliman - Sports Massage Therapist says:

        There are actually multiple types of PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) Stretches. One of the most common is referred to as Post-Isometric Relaxation, or PIR. This is what Ross was describing above, except once you release the stretch, you don’t bring them back to neutral for the contraction, you just ‘back out’ of the stretch a little bit and then have them contract against resistance for about 7 seconds, and then provide the stretch again at an increased ROM. Another type is called Antagonist-Contract, which is more of what Gary described. Contracting the antagonist muscle puts the muscle being targeted for stretching in an increased state of relaxation, so you are then able to get more ROM when applying the stretch after contraction. Another is a combination of the two, Contract-Relax-Antagonist-Contract, or CRAC. Basically you apply both sets of principles of the techniques (PIR, then followed by Antagonist-Contract, and then apply the stretch) I have a page dedicated to these techniques on my website here:

    • Jamin Rak says:

      I agree with your comment to a point. Strength and flexibility are essential if done with the proper guidance which is what I like to provide. But even the strongest most flexible people still can greatly benefit from massage therapy to decrease any specific muscle spasms or to aide the tissue repair.

  2. Karla says:

    We were told in massage school to be really cautious about telling clients to stretch because it’s not in our scope of practice. Thoughts?

    • Jamin Rak says:

      Each state has their own scope of practice for massage therapists. Your state may not allow massage therapists to demonstrate stretch routines but others state may.

  3. Gary Addis says:

    I disagree that stretching should be done before the massage. Cold muscle doesn’t stretch; massage thoroughly warms the tissue. I massage (NMT/Swedish strokes, MFR is needed). When the therapeutic massage has been completed, then I apply stretch to that area before moving on.

    • Jamin Rak says:

      Who said anything about stretching pre massage? Anyways, the idea of warming up before stretching has been taken to the extremes by some… it all depends on how aggressive your are taking your stretch. I don’t recommend aggressive stretching seasons. But stretching before even getting out of bed is very beneficial. Therefore it’s not necessary to “warm up” a muscle before a stretch. It’s all in the technique.

Leave a Reply

Message