Pain Myth #2: Just Stretch It

“Just stretch it” is probably one of the most common pieces of “medical” advice people are given about how to fix their pain…and very often it’s bad advice.

This advice usually comes from people who have no professional background in dealing with people in pain and how the body moves.

Although sometimes, this advice even comes from your doctor.  After talking to you for a couple minutes about your pain, they give you a prescription for a medication and hand you a generic sheet of stretches that they give people with )insert body part here) pain.  This blanket approach is rarely successful as no two people can be treated exactly the same way.

 Let’s Run Through a Common Scenario…

You feel some pain in neck, so you lay low for a couple weeks thinking it will go away and it doesn’t (see Myth #1: “Rest Will Fix Your Problem” for more on that).

So then you go to a doctor and after talking to you for a couple minutes about your pain, he/she gives you a prescription for medication and tells you to “just stretch it.”  Maybe they even give you a generic sheet of stretches to do.  They probably have a few generic stretching sheets they give to people with “insert body part here” pain.  This blanket (and lazy) approach rarely works though as no two people can be treated exactly the same way.

You listen to the doctor and do the stretches for a few weeks and while it temporarily feels a little better after the stretching, overall your pain and limitations are still there….and you feel like you wasted a few weeks of your life.

And now you’re frustrated and confused as to what you should do to help your problem.

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How About Another One I Hear All The Time...

"My hamstrings are always tight.  I stretch them all the time and they're still tight."

Then stretching obviously (or maybe not so obviously)  isn't the solution to your problem.  There are many reasons why someone can feel "tightness" in their hamstrings and it takes a movement specialist to figure out the root cause of the problem...not someone who just hands you a piece of paper with a couple hamstring stretches on it.

There are even some movement specialists out there who say "tight' hamstrings are the epidemic that never actually existed.

Why You Should Stop Stretching

Simply put, if stretching was the answer to your problem, then you wouldn't have your problem anymore.  Think about it, if you're stretching the same area over and over and you still feel tight....then stretching clearly isn't helping and there is a different answer to your problem.

In some instances, stretching may be beneficial, but other times it could actually make your problem worse.  Think about this - you tie a knot in a piece of rope and you pull on both ends stretching the rope.  What happens?...the knot gets tighter.  Think about that analogy the next time something feels tight and you try to stretch it out.

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There are many reasons why stretching may not be helpful, most of which quite complicated and confusing.  So, if this article really hits home with you, I recommend you seek out a medical professional who specializes in movement and can view your problem from a different perspective.  Because right now, the approach you're taking is wasting time and energy...and potentially making the problem worse!

 

Read Pain Myth #1: "Rest Will Fix Your Problem"
Read Pain Myth #3: "A Cortisone Injection is the Answer To Your Problem"
Read Pain Myth #4: "It's Because of Your Age"
Read Pain Myth #5: "You Need To Get an MRI"