4 Proven Benefits of Stretching for Chronic Pain
Exercise is often recommended for chronic pain patients; but, did you know that stretching is equally as important? This article will explore why a regular stretching routine can help folks with chronic pain.
Stretching improves flexibility which is one pillar of physical fitness. Flexibility refers to the ability of a joint to move through its range of motion. Is it painless or painful? Is the movement restricted or fluid?
Assessing your own flexibility can help establish the need for a stretching routine. Although, stretching is great – no matter your abilities.
Stretching and Chronic Pain
When flexibility is low, there is often pain, stiffness, and difficulty getting around. These are all factors that greatly impact quality of life with chronic pain.
Stretching is an accessible, low-cost way to improve your flexibility. You can adapt stretching to your needs and do it for free in the comfort of your home. Practicing a stretching routine regularly can have several excellent benefits for your chronic pain.
The next section will dive into the specific benefits and how they can help improve pain.
Overall Benefits of Stretching
As mentioned, stretching directly improves flexibility. But, what does that mean? Flexibility relieves stiffness and tight muscles. With looser, lengthened muscles, there is a better range of motion with less restricted movement. This can help with mobility and prevent further injuries.
As you move through stretches, your body sends blood to the areas that are being moved. This can help your body provide more oxygen to those areas and take away any built-up waste products. Improved circulation promotes healing, lymphatic drainage, and reduction of inflammation.
Stress Relief and Relaxation
Living with chronic pain is stressful! This stress can manifest in tension and tight muscles that cause pain. When you stretch, the act of releasing this tension can help bring a sense of calmness. Deep breathing is encouraged during stretching, which helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for relaxation). Another bonus of stretching is the release of endorphins – your body’s reward signal. These feel good chemicals not only improve your mood, but can relieve pain.
Improved Coordination and Posture
Stretching helps to establish better balance and posture. When you work on improving your range of motion, your bones and joints become better aligned as tight muscles relax. With improved gait, you become more stable. This can improve back and neck pain, as well as help prevent injuries and falls.
The Safest Ways to Stretch
The best way to stretch is regularly. If you stretch once, you won’t see an improvement. However, if you stretch for 15 minutes everyday, and gradually deepen your stretches, you will see steady improvements. Professionals often recommend stretching everyday at your own pace.
Some general stretching tips:
- Stretch in comfortable clothing
- Never push past pain or force yourself into a painful position; stretching should not be painful (it can be uncomfortable)
- Stretch after warming up your body (e.g., after exercise or light activity)
- Avoid stretching cold (without warming up)
- Do not bounce
- Move into the stretch slowly
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 5 times
- Listen to your body!
One excellent way to work stretching into your pain management routine is to try a form of exercise where stretching is fundamental. For example, yoga and tai chi include stretches as a foundational part of their practices. Attending classes led by a trained expert can ensure that you are stretching your whole body, while also getting low-impact exercise.
Stretching can be dangerous if you do not have good form. An amazing first step is to see a physiotherapist to help guide you in creating a safe, personalized, stretching program. Further, always consult your doctor before you start any new exercise or stretching programs.
There’s no denying that stretching can be a vital part of your pain management routine. Whether you’re looking to improve your range of motion or prevent future injuries, stretching is a great practice.
Understanding the benefits of stretching, we’ve included gentle stretching exercises in our video library. For example, we offer follow-along stretching videos that target your hands and feet. Alternatively, for a whole body approach, we also offer follow-along yoga videos.
We hope you found this article helpful. Let us know if you follow a stretching routine and if there are any stretches that have made a big difference for you in the comments!
Harvard Medical School. (2022). The importance of stretching. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved from: here
Moghim, R. (n.d.). The benefits of stretching for chronic pain. Colorado Pain Care. Retrieved from: here
PainPathways Magazine. (2016). The Important Benefits of Stretching for Pain Relief. Pain Pathways Blog. Retrieved from: here
Twin Cities Pain Clinic. (n.d.) Stretching and Chronic Pain. Twin Cities Pain Clinic. Retrieved from: here
Yetman, D. (2020). The benefits of stretching and why it feels good. Healthline. Retrieved from: here
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