Don’t Be Dumb, Don’t Stretch

I’m just as guilty of this as the next guy.

Stretching is tempting because it can relieve pain right away, but there are some problems with this.

To understand the problem with stretching, you have to understand why your back feels tight after a tweak in the first place.

Your back is protecting itself from injury by contracting really hard, it knows that if it’s contracted it’s hard to damage the area.

That pain and tightness are just that, all of the surrounding muscles and the muscle in question triggering to provide support to the area.

So, if you then try to take this contracted muscle and stretch it, you are fighting against your body. And, you are convincing it that the area needs the support even more.

Not only will you encourage the interactions, there is also a chance you will further damage the muscle by tugging on it in a damaged state.

So, what about stretching the surrounding muscles?

Since all of your muscles are interconnected, if you stretch your hamstrings, or stretch your hip flexors, or stretch your upper back, they don’t pull as much on the lower back area, and therefore some of that pain goes away.

It sounds like a good thing.

Not so much.

We will cover this another day, but stretching under load, and stretching not under load are very different things. Mobility not under the load does not transfer to mobility under load. But, the weakening affect on the muscle does transfer.

So, you stretching while not under load, is giving your muscles a greater range of motion, but it is not giving them more strength in that new range. This means you are now taking supportive tissue from around the damaged area and weakening it. Defeating the purpose of the contraction and possibly damaging the muscle.

Moral of the story, your stretching is making the whole thing worse.

So, stop it