Do you ever have some pesky pain that just won’t go away? Maybe it’s a stiff neck, or a seemingly never-ending back pain. A lot of this can be attributed to tight muscles, which is very common in American adults. Did you know that the number one leading cause of sick days in the U.S. is from lower back pain? As many as 80% of adults will experience it at some point in their lives!
Tight muscles can be caused by a number of reasons. One of the major ones is stress, something that many people experience in their day to day lives. When you feel stressed and anxious, your fight or flight response kicks in, causing your muscles to tense up in preparation for running or fighting. Nowadays, we know most of the things that cause us stress are things we can’t fix with the fight or flight response, but our muscles still become tightened and tense. With many experiencing such high levels of stress, it’s no wonder that our tight muscles are causing so much pain!
Another major reason for tight muscles is bad posture. If you sit at a desk all day at work and type on a computer, you are prone to poor posture! When we are typing, we tend to hunch our shoulders forward and drop our head which strains our shoulders, neck, and upper back. When left unaddressed for long periods of time, this type of posture is very difficult to correct because your chest muscles become shortened and our back muscles, which would help pull our shoulders back, are too weak to do the job.
One of the easiest ways to address these problems is stretching! Stretching is an easy habit to get into. It takes only 10 minutes of your day and provides so many positive benefits. There are multiple different forms of stretching, but the two most common are static stretching and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is the type of stretch you usually think about when you hear the word stretch. These types of stretches involve little movement after you have reached the point of feeling a good stretch in your target muscle. Imagine reaching down to touch your toes or bending your knee to hold your foot up behind your butt. Static stretches are good for waking yourself up in the morning or winding down at night. Dynamic stretching involves much more movement, as you are moving through a range of motion during the stretch instead of just holding the stretch in one place. Think about doing high knees or arm swings. This type of stretching is best for when you are preparing for a workout and should be done every time before exercising! While each type of stretch has its benefits, each individual needs to find what works best for them.
Stretching can also be beneficial for your mental health. If you stretch in the morning, it gives you a quiet time to prepare yourself for the day ahead. If you stretch before bed, it allows you a time to wind down from the day and quiet your mind in preparation for sleep. Stretching might even help get you through that midafternoon slump! The increase in blood flow caused by stretching can give you that little jolt of energy you need to carry you through the rest of your day.
So now you may be interested in starting a daily stretching routine. Here’s some tips to get you started!
Pick a time of day where you feel stretching would most benefit you. Or even better, stretch more than once a day!
Identify the parts of your body that are tight and need to be stretched the most. Choose stretches that target these muscle groups
Stretch both sides of your body equally to avoid any muscle imbalances – neglecting to do this could make your pain even worse, or lead to possible injury
Use your stretching time as almost a mini-meditation session – focus on your breathing and how your body is feeling
Hold each stretch for 10-15 seconds to get the most benefit
Now that you have a routine, watch your back pain and muscle tightness disappear!