WHY STRETCHING DOESN’T WORK
By Dr, David Tannenbaum, DC
A good part of my day is spent working with sedentary office workers who spend eight to 12 hours a day glued to a desk chair in front of a computer. Most of these patients arrive at my office with the mobility of a steel bar. In most cases, this immobility did not happen overnight, so it sometimes comes as a surprise when we recommend starting any kind of exercise or rehabilitation program. “Can’t you just fix it really quick”, is a phrase I hear often.
From an early age most of us remember stretching before P.E. or other sports programs; we were told that holding a pose, such as touching your toes, for 20-30 seconds created additional length within a muscle, allowing for greater range of motion; but static stretching isn’t the solution.
THE REAL PROBLEM
The real problem here is that people are failing to ask why their muscles are so tight that they need stretching in the first place. Muscles are “dumb”; they do only what they are told to do. The nervous system controls everything and muscles don’t contract unless the nervous system says so. Therefore, if a muscle is chronically tight the body trying to provide stability to an unstable joint.
In a world where “TEXT NECK” and “COMPUTER BACK” are the symptoms of hours and hours of looking at a phone or monitor. Our bodies are natures greatest achievement, but how our brain sits on top of our human necks is simple a bad design. We have 7 cervical vertebrae bones in our neck that support a 12-pound skull of brain, muscle and thick bone (we
are literally hard headed).
As we stare at our computer screens or phone the angle by which we strain our neck increases the amount of weight our neck requires to support the head (it’s a whole physics thing); but our (dumb) muscles only compensate to support the problem and DO NOT fix the problem. It starts becoming a cycle, as your condition worsens and the angle by which your neck curves, the weight increase, therefore the muscle tension increases to the point where I am seeing man patients who neck muscle are supporting the equivalent of 60-pounds weight on their neck muscles.
Therefore, simply stretching tight muscle tissue without correcting the reason it’s tight will only result in that muscle getting tight again.
IF STRETCHING ISN’T THE ANSWER, THEN WHAT IS?
Chiropractic Care: The first step is, obviously, correcting the cause of the problem with chiropractic care. It’s easy to get wrapped up in addressing symptoms, but until the reason for the abnormal muscle tightness is taken care of, you’re just going to be spinning wheels. A simple adjustment isn’t going to cut it! The neck bones, neck muscles and other muscles that work up to the neck have all been corrected. Imagine if a wall in your house started falling over; to immediately fix the problem you would prop it up with wood braces, duct tape or whatever you have. You wouldn’t yank all that make shift support prior to fixing the problem or the wall would fall! The neck is the exact same; the stressed out, tight muscles are not going to go away immediately. Through muscle work, adjustments and follow-up care, we get to the core of the problem.
Acupuncture: Our in-house acupuncturist specializes in Sports Therapy; so much of the work done to our patients goes in conjunction with our chiropractic care. Acupuncture treatments are designed to target the muscles causing your pain and these sessions help reduce the tension on your neck which in benefits your adjustment.
Structural Integration: A type of bodywork that focuses on the connective tissue, or fascia, of the body. Injury, stress, work-related repetitive movements, and the effects of aging can cause fascia to lose its elasticity and become shorter, tighter, and more dense. Tightened fascia pulls our muscles and skeleton out of proper alignment and posture, which can cause pain, discomfort, and fatigue. Structural Integration works to lengthen, stretch, and soften this tissue to restore postural balance and ease of movement. A great compliment to chiropractic work.
Foam rolling / traction: Many people think of foam rolling as just another type of stretching, but it’s actually quite different. Instead of changing the length of muscle tissues, foam rolling creates a neural down-regulation that reduces resting muscle tone. Additionally, employing traction with decompression tables and/or elastic bands can also decrease stimuli to overactive muscles and encourage movement of fluid into joint spaces.
Dynamic warm-ups: To prep for exercise or rehab work, I advise my patients to warm up by doing the movements they will use during their workout, instead of simply stretching. Of course, everyone’s needs, and capabilities are different, so the warm-up should be tailored to the individual.
Dr. David Tannenbaum has been taking care of families in Beverly Hills for over 25 years. His has created a practice unlike other chiropractors from the moment you walk in you will feel the difference. His private office in Beverly Hills offers Chiropractic Care, Acupuncture and Massage. He believes that everyone should “Feel Amazing”!