Increased flexibility is just one of the benefits of stretching. Stretching is also key to pain relief and healing from injury. This article will discuss the many ways stretching helps you feel better and move more easily.
Increased Blood Flow
Injury and pain often results from stagnation in the body which happens when blood is not flowing to the area. The tissue hardens when the blood isn't flowing to the area and this in turn makes it harder for blood to get to the area. Stretching helps the blood flow increase and opens up the fascia so that blood can get to the knotted tissue more easily. This will help alleviate any pain and begin the healing process.
Increased Range of Motion
Stretching helps relieve pain by increasing the body's ability to move. The body responds to injury or overuse by trying to compensate by going into stillness. Then, the stillness stops the body's natural healing response. Movement helps counteract the body's freeze response to the trauma of injury. The more flexible the body is, the more able it is to move in a full way so that it can heal.
Increased Oxygen Flow
Oxygen is one of the body's natural healers. Under stress, increasing the oxygen flow throughout the body will help with healing and will also help alleviate pain. If you combine deep and intentional breaths with your stretching, you maximize the healing potential of the activity. If you also visualize oxygen going even more fully into the area that's hurting, you harness the power of your mind to facilitate an increased feeling of wellness.
Pain is exacerbated by stress in the body, and stress in the body can be exacerbated by psychological stress. Stretching helps the mind relax and helps the body get out of trauma mode. This encourages more wellness and more healing which in turn triggers more relaxation.
Stretching the Whole Body
Stretching the whole body will help heal pain even if that pain is localized to one area. This is true because all areas of the body are connected through the fascia which is a sheath that covers and surrounds all of the musculature throughout the body. So, it's important to stretch the whole body.
Tightness in the neck can exacerbate pain in the head, neck, shoulders, arms and upper back. Get into a position with a straight spine and slowly rotate the neck in full circles. Then, do a very slow and full "yes" motion, nodding your head, and a very slow and full "no" motion going from looking over one shoulder to looking over the other. Then, stretch the scalene muscles by looking up and tilting your head to the side.
Stretching the back can alleviate pain in that area as well as the arms and legs. Lie on your back and lift the legs to the chest. Then, bring one leg at a time to the chest, hugging the leg at the knee.
Stretching the forearms and wrists makes a huge difference in pain and tension. Flex the wrists in both directions, with palms facing towards you and palms facing away from you.