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Why Stretching Might Not Relieve Your Pain

Stretching primarily targets muscles, and while it can temporarily increase range of motion in a joint, reduce injury risk during sports, and even offer some pain relief, its effects don’t last.

Muscle fibers are always striving to shorten and contract, even during eccentric contractions where the muscle lengthens. This creates force, mainly directed towards the tendons. The most effective stretch for increasing range of motion is post-isometric relaxation (PIR), involving a muscle stretch, isometric contraction, and then another more stretching. However, even PIR won’t address the source of your pain or provide a lasting solution.

The Limitations of Stretching for Long-Term Pain Relief

The more you use a muscle, the shorter and tighter it becomes – a natural response to generate force. Although stretching lengthens the muscle and improves the range of motion, you will often find yourself back at square one with a tight muscle immediately after using it again.

Understanding Motor Adaptations

The body often develops motor adaptations as protective mechanisms to prevent further injury. For instance, a past knee injury might lead to subtle weaknesses that your body compensates for. Over time, this compensation can create new problems in other areas, such as numbness in your quad or plantar fasciitis in your foot. A series of these adaptations can occur to protect the initial injury, leading to pain in seemingly unrelated areas like the hip, back, or even the feet.

Acupuncture Sports Therapy considers all past injuries to understand how your body is compensating. That’s why I conduct a thorough diagnostic exam to determine which muscles are working correctly and which are slacking off, causing others to overwork.

The Solution: Loading Your Tendons

If stretching won’t provide long-term pain relief, what will? The answer lies in strategically loading your tendons. Each muscle has an optimal length, and by understanding this, I design specific exercises to lengthen tendons and apply load during muscle contractions. These targeted exercises, tailored to your unique needs and motor adaptations, can create rapid, long-term changes in your body.

The Acupuncture Sports Therapy Approach

At Acupuncture Pain and Stress Center, I take a comprehensive approach. We spend the first 20% of treatment addressing your pain and activating underactive muscles with acupuncture, dry needling, and manual therapy. The remaining 80% focuses on taking you through a progression of exercises designed to optimize your movement, retrain your muscle patterns, and ensure all muscles work together as a team. This reduces muscle tension, pain, and the risk of further injury, helping you excel at your sport and enjoy a pain-free active lifestyle.

Have Questions? Spend 15 minutes with the therapist and get those questions answered

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