Stretching is an important part of your regular exercise routine and can improve your level of fitness and help you perform better. When done correctly, stretching should not cause pain or soreness. If you do find that you're sore, gentle stretching performed correctly can be beneficial, but it's important to understand the source of your soreness.
Importance of Stretching
Stretching can increase flexibility in your muscles and joints, which can help protect you from injury. Stretching can also strengthen your athletic abilities and boost blood flow to your muscles. Stretching can also help you feel more relaxed and wind down after a workout. Proper stretching technique can help ease pain from stretching too vigorously and help prevent soreness and pain from stretching.
Pain and Injuries
Despite the benefits of stretching, you can still sustain injuries and suffer pain if you don't stretch correctly. You may stretch the muscle too far and cause a tear or strain, and pushing your muscles beyond their limits can cause pain during the stretch and significant soreness after stretching. Overexercising can also trigger muscle spasms and cause a buildup of lactic acid and other waste materials. If you've pushed yourself too hard, very light, slow and gentle stretching can help ease soreness and help the muscles recover. Stretching too vigorously can result in further injury.
To Stretch or Not to Stretch?
If you suspect that you tore or strained a muscle during stretching or other vigorous exercise, allow the muscle to heal before you stretch it again. Take a break until your muscle recovers. Gradually and gently stretch the sore muscle as the pain subsides. Listen to your body. If you can find a stretching position that feels comfortable, continue that stretch. If you can't get comfortable with even a light stretch, skip the stretching until the muscle heals.
If it hurts when you stretch, you're taking it too far. Stretch only to the point of tension, not discomfort or pain. Always remember to warm up before you stretch, and never stretch your muscles when they're cold. You should never bounce while you stretch, as that can cause tears in the muscle that can result in scarring. Instead, hold your stretch in a position that is comfortable for you for around 30 to 40 seconds, repeating three to four times. Add slow movements to your stretches, such as in Tai Chi practice, to promote better flexibility and strengthen muscles.