Stretching is generally considered a necessity for active people, whether they be professional sports people, fitness enthusiasts, casual dancers, or weekend warriors. But as Physiotherapists we are often asked "does stretching actually improve injury prevention or just it just help you feel less stiffness in your body?"
It is a controversial matter. The question of does stretching help our body prevent injury and does it speed up recovery is still not clear. If you look purely at 'the evidence' there are significant studies, randomised control trials and case studies that have proven that static stretching does not prevent injuries.
The benefits of stretching differ on how and when you do it. Often people think the best way to ease muscle soreness is to stretch and stretch BUT NO! Muscle soreness can come from micro tears in the muscle and stretching that muscle will certainly aggravate the symptom. Micro tears in our muscle needs time to heal just like an open wound once they have healed and you can now be able to mobilise better and stretch it.
Many athletes have taken 30 minutes of their daily routine to do stretching as what they call it as “warm up”, some others do it statically or dynamically. Others think that they really have to stretch everyday to be very flexible good examples are ballerinas or gymnasts.
A high number of studies suggest that performing dynamic stretching is better than holding a stretch in a static plane for 20-30 seconds. However, the key with this is the control which requires balance and stability of our muscles in the relation to our joints and ligaments to get to a certain range. Which means, no matter how often and how hard you stretch to be able to reach your toes, stretching is not the only answer but it is strengthening and building up balance and control within our muscles.
In order to achieve this you have to be mobilising yourself as often as possible. Stretching by just reaching through your toes or lengthening your calves would not hurt but won’t help you much too. It means that everyone tends to move in so many directions- multi or dynamic ranges. If your goal is to be flexible, be strong or to just prevent and maintain your body in a well condition just like moving as good as your car, you have to start mobilising.
They are different ways you can train yourself to get that control, either doing Pilates, Yoga or any other activities you feel that you can do. It just requires proper guidance and timing also it will always boil down on how you feel during this kind of activities, besides the integral part of control is the feedback within your own body. The more you move the more you teach your muscles, ligaments and joints to naturally follow through their ranges. It will definitely take some time to be able to teach your body and brain new movements but it is how are bodies are made it continuously discovers new ways to move, strengthen and heal itself.
In Pilates, there is a wide variety of movements performed in all different planes, in fact you will probably discover a whole range of new movement you didn't even know body your body could do!