Will Stretching Help My Pain?

If you have ever been in pain, chances are you were told to stretch.  For some of us it helped, others it didn’t.  Why did it work for some, while others stay in pain and are left thinking they just need to stretch more? Could stretching actually make the pain worse?

To understand this topic, we have to talk about some complicated subjects; anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology.  Please don’t run away, we will make it easy for you to understand.

To start lets agree, that as humans, we all have the same parts, and should, therefore, all move the same and respond similar when exposed to common environments.  Let’s also agree that our modern day lifestyle leaves us in poor postures for most of the day.  Be honest with yourself right now and assess your posture.  Is your head forward into your computer or flexed down to your phone trying to read this?  Is your low back rounded and flexed while at your desk right now or on your drive home?  Chances are it probably is, and you’re like this for most of the day without realizing it. These positions are already lengthened or stretched positions, so why isn’t it helping?

We walk a very fine line everyday balancing between what our body was designed to handle, and what we actually put our body through.  We must understand that when we overload or overwork our body either through training, work, or sitting at a desk all day, the body will have to create compensations to better accommodate the stress being placed on the body.  In the initial phases of compensation, the body will feel “weak and tight.”  This serves as a protective role on the body, and is commonly referred to as “protective tension.”

Protective tension serves a purpose to protect the body from injury by providing stability to an unstable area.  While it may feel good to stretch really all that is happening during this time is that a bunch of stretch receptors are getting fired off and overriding the current symptoms.  This is why you may feel better in the short term but relief never lasts more than a few hours. This is also why it can lead to long term pain, as stretching often leads to more cumulative damage in already lengthened tissue!

If we fail to recognize why the protective tension is occurring and continue with our regular activity without modifications, friction, pressure, and tension, will eventually lead to the development of dysfunction in the body.

Having already agreed that as humans we will mostly have the same parts and respond similar given the same situations, we know that in muscles, or where nerves come into contact with muscles, adhesion will ultimately form in structures with continuous overload from repetitive motions or prolonged positions!  Adhesion is the most common pathology found in muscles, but unfortunately, one of the most misdiagnosed conditions in the human body.  I am going to go out on a limb and guess you haven’t heard this term before.  Fortunately, it can be easily fixed!

Overuse Cycle

Adhesion, or scar tissue, when present, acts like glue on the muscle and nerves.  This further leads into the continuous cycle of feeling “tight” but will also start to cause pain and injury.  If left untreated, this relatively easy problem to fix only gets worse and leads to bigger complications down the road.  Weakness, pain, and even tingling, burning, and numbness, when present along a nerve, can all be caused by adhesion.

Adhesion

Stretching, unfortunately, will not fix adhesion.  In order to fix adhesion, adhesion must be broken down through manual therapy by a certified practitioner that is trained to diagnoses and treat adhesion.  When adhesion is removed, the “need” to stretch is removed.  By removing adhesion, the body can then move better, and function better on a day to day basis without the need to stretch!  Stretching can help to prevent adhesion from coming back in the future, and keep you healthier, but will not fix adhesion in the present.

At Thrive Spine and Sport, we are currently the only full body Integrative Diagnosis provider in the state of Iowa.  Integrative Diagnosis providers are trained to find faulty movement patterns, diagnose, and treat adhesion to fix your pain or movement problem! If you are constantly feeling “tight” or having pain, weakness, or numbness and have failed to find anything that has fixed the problem, I invite you to get to the bottom of your problem! Simply fill out the appointment request on this page or call our office at 319-423-0925 today!

Thanks for reading!

 

 

5 Must Have Movements For Pain Free Running!

Let’s face the facts.  Runners are one of the most injured group of athletes.  Some studies suggest, as much as 70% of runners this year will suffer an injury that will either limit the runner’s   mileage,or stop them from running completely! The complications of running arise primarily from overuse.

Now I don’t want to paint a picture that running is bad for you, because it isn’t!  There are tremendous health benefits to running.  The problem is that most runners like to push their limits – often coming very close – several times a week.  This is where injuries start.

Runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, sound familiar?  These are all examples of overuse injuries.  These don’t develop after one run but after miles and miles of pounding the pavement.  Generally, the problem isn’t that we run too much, so much as these, are often the result of biomechanical imbalances and deficits which lead to added stress on muscles, joints, and other tissues.

None of us want to stop running or have pain.  Wouldn’t it be nice to know what is causing our current pain and problems?  Or better yet, wouldn’t be nice to know if we were at risk for a specific injury? Fortunately we do have these things!  Below are 5 at-home assessments that can test and assess for some of the most common running injuries!

Ankle Dorsiflexion

Ankle dorsiflexion may be the most important assessment for a runner.  The feet and ankles are our foundation!  Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and eventually stress fractures can all be caused by limited dorsiflexion.

To test this start by standing arm’s length away from a wall.  Place one foot close to the wall with the big toe touching the wall.  Place a ruler along the lateral foot.  While keeping the heel on the ground, bring the knee to the wall.  Continue to slide the foot back and bring the knee to wall until you can no longer get the knee to touch the wall without the heel coming off the floor.  Normal range is 5-6” and anything short of this makes you more likely for any running injury!

Clean Ankle Dorsiflexion
Clean Ankle Dorsiflexion

Knee Flexion

Reduced knee flexion directly leads to one of the most frequent injuries for runners – Runners knee.

To try this assessment, stand upright. Grab and pull an ankle until the heel comes into contact with the glute on the same side as the ankle.  Anything short of pulling the ankle to the glute is placing you at higher risk for Runners knee.

Positive Knee Flexion (Heel Short of Glutes)

Hip Flexion

While the hips are not given the label of the most commonly injured sites for a runner, a lack of hip flexion can lead to bursitis, IT band syndrome, muscle/labrum tears, and other problems downstream of the hips.

To test hip flexion, start by lying flat on the floor with the legs straight in front of you.  Try to bring the knee to the chest while keeping the opposing leg flat.  The front of the thigh should be flat against the chest.  Test the other side the same way.  Any pinching in through the front of hip, in the groin, or lateral hip is also a positive test and putting you at risk for injury.

Hip Flexion Test
Hip Flexion Test

Hip Extension

Hip Extension is another assessment that has a direct role in stride length.  Limited hip extension shortens the stride.  When putting in the final kick to finish our race, we can’t be held back!  By altering our stride, hip extension can cause any issue in the low back, hips, or knees directly.

To test this assessment is a little trickier and may require a partner. Start by getting into a lunge position.  Lean as far forward as you can on the hip while staying upright. There should be no forward lean!  Place a ruler under your back leg – this is the side we are assessing.   Then find your ASIS – it is the bony part in the front of your hip.  Place a level or a plumb line directly against the ASIS, directly over the ruler.  Where the plumb line or level hits the ruler is your measurement.  Note symptoms as well. Test both sides. Normal range of motion is 11-13” for most people although it can get much more.  Pain with this movement, inability to stay upright, or any measurement short of 11” is a positive test.

Hip Extension (Measure from under the back leg)

Toe Touch

The toe touch is an “all-inclusive” assessment.  The toe touch is one of the most basic, functional movements anyone who is an active runner should have.  Inability to touch the toes, shows reduced mobility in the low back and hips putting you at more risk of any injury, including low back pain.

Hopefully, you found all these assessments to be in normal range, but I’m guessing a few of you out there found some tests that were a little short or painful.

So why don’t you have the mobility?  The two most common reasons these movements are restricted are due to adhesion and joint shape issues.

Adhesion is a buildup of scar tissue through overuse in the soft tissue like muscles, ligaments, or around nerves. This is the most common dysfunction in the human body, but also the most commonly misdiagnosed condition.  The good news is that it can be easily fixed by a professional trained to diagnose and treat it! When present adhesion restricts range of motion, decreases strength, and causes pain.

Joint shape issues are either genetic or degenerative.  This is not nearly as common as adhesion is, and degenerative joints are often the result of years of bad soft tissue, use, and abuse.

So what can you do?

If you find yourself falling short in some of these assessments but were pain free, start a routine of some stretching and mobility. Stretch and foam roll the restricted areas daily to try to get within normal range.

If you currently find yourself in pain, or any of the assessments painful, it’s too late! You need to seek out a healthcare professional to get examined.  Find one that is trained to break up adhesion and properly evaluate these movements.  If you chose to continue to run with these restricted movements and pain, it is not a matter of if, but when, more significant injury will happen!

If you live in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area and struggling with any of these tests, call our office today at 319-423-0925!  At Thrive Spine and Sport we specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of overuse injuries caused by adhesion.

Pain and injuries are a part of running, just like any other sport, but that shouldn’t be the reason they stop you!

 

Thanks for reading!