Our muscles allow us to do just about everything: walk, talk, hug, eat, dance, and more. But what do we do to take care of our muscles that do so much for us? For chiropractic patients like you interested in protecting themselves from injury or muscle pain, introducing a regular stretching routine could be the best thing you do for your body this year.

Why stretch?

Stretching keeps muscles flexible and strong, helping to increase the range of motion for the body. At your next appointment, your chiropractor may recommend certain stretches, based on your treatment needs, to help aid your body in increasing circulation and preventing future injury or pain. Without actively and frequently stretching, muscles can become tight and actually shorten. This significantly limits their ability to move as they should. A patient with tight, shortened muscles is more likely to experience joint pain or muscles strains and pain.

In addition, our muscles support our body’s joints. If the muscles around a joint are stiff and weak, they can provide inadequate support which can also lead to knee or hip pain. Regular stretching activates the muscles to increase blood flow throughout the body and lengthen the body’s muscles. Muscles that are regularly stretched can better move and respond to new physical activity; they are simply less likely to experience injury, pain, or fatigue.

Stretching 101

Start a stretching routine by aiming to stretch at least three times a week. Even a quick 5-minute routine will help you reap so many stretching benefits. If you are physically active and jog, walk, cycle, or swim, stretch after your workout; this is the best time to lengthen and engage muscles because they are warm and loose from exertion, stretching more easily — and with less chance of injury. If you are less physically active, be sure to do something active to warm up your muscles before a stretch; take a quick walk around the block, do some jumping jacks, or simply stretch after gardening or light housework. Here’s a few other tips to keep in mind when stretching:

• Use care: only stretch until you feel a slight pull in the muscle; you don’t want to be in pain when holding a stretch, since injuring your muscle is counterintuitive to the stretching exercise! If you feel pain lingering after a stretch, get it checked out soon by your chiropractor.

• Hold tight: Hold each stretch position for about 30 seconds. Maintain a static stretch, and don’t wiggle or bounce when in position.

• Stay strong: Stretching should become a natural part of your physical activity. Maintaining your stretching routine can be difficult at first, but once it becomes a habit, it can make a huge difference in how you feel — not to mention prevent torn or sore muscles, and help your body rebound after physical exertion.