by James Arbuckle
Stretching is a mildly controversial topic.
For decades, many athletes have believed that a pre- and post-activity regimen of statically stretching individual muscles to or beyond their maximum length provided the following benefits: effective warm up, injury prevention, improved performance, increased flexibility through permanent muscle elongation, and dissipation of knots in muscles.
However, current research leans away from such claims. Multiple studies have shown that pre-activity stretching can actually decrease performance, and makes no appreciable difference in frequency or severity of injuries. Other studies show that pre-activity stretching doesn’t warm and prepare the muscles as well as simply performing a scaled-down version of the activity itself, and that muscles cannot undergo plastic changes simply by being stretched.
So if stretching doesn’t deliver on injury prevention or performance improvement, what is it good for? Depending on how we define good:
Per current research, the following can be safely claimed as benefits of stretching or what’s “good” about it: Relief from muscle soreness | Improved peace of mind | Improved flexibility by increasing stretch tolerance.
Most people agree that stretching just feels good. It may not “cure” sore muscles, but it can provide some in-the-moment relief. For many, stretching induces a peaceful state, and can be used as a meditation. And finally, there is evidence that stretching improves flexibility, the current theory being that it increases the athletes tolerance of stretching.
Yoga, a stretching-based activity, can provide all of these benefits. For clients who would rather have yoga “done to them”, we offer Thai Yoga Massage at Nimbus. In this modality, the therapist puts the client through various yoga poses and stretches, inducing a state of relaxation and invigoration. And for those who would rather be massaged on a table rather than a mat, we now offer Table Thai sessions.
James Arbuckle is a Licensed Massage Therapist at Nimbus Massage. He specializes in Swedish Massage, Sports Massage, Thai Yoga Massage, Hot Stone Massage, and Reflexology.