By: Adam Swanson, CPT, CES, PES, T.P.I CGFI Why should I stretch? Is it really that important? These are a some of the questions I hear from people . Or when I ask them how much stretching they do on a daily or weekly basis I usually hear "I don't have time" or "it hurts too much". The unfortunate truth is we don't know how important stretching really is for our bodies. With the modern U.S. population evolving more towards sitting for a living (computers, cars, cell phones, TV's, planes, and board rooms) and moving less, there is a seemingly large spike in injuries, pain, and surgeries in the last 30 years.
Low back pain is the most common form of musculoskeletal dysfunctions seen in the adult population and the most common we see in our office. Research shows low back pain affects more than 80% of adults who work in enclosed spaces like offices as well as manual labor jobs. Studies have shown 60% of all work-related injuries involve the lower back, with an estimated annual cost attributed to lower back pain in the United States being greater than $26 billion. Getting up and walking around at least once every hour and stretching your hip flexor's and hamstrings are a couple of easy tips to prevent low back pain in addition to core strengthening exercises.
This is the second most common problem we see in our office. Studies show over 20% of people report some sort of shoulder pain in their lifetime with 40% persisting for at least one year. Shoulder impingement syndrome is the most prevalent accounting for 50 to 65% of shoulder pain, and usually comes from a sedentary lifestyle and weakened structures. Focusing more on stretching the front of our bodies and strengthening the back can help save us from pain in our shoulders or worse yet injury.
Knee pain and injuries are also a growing concern. An estimated 80-100,000 ACL injuries happen in the U.S. every year with approximately 75% of these being non-contact injuries. Along with ACL injuries, patellar tendinitis and improper gliding patterns can can lead to arthritis of the knee. This comes as no surprise when considering the lack of movement in today's society, increased obesity, and lack of mandatory physical education in our schools. Stretching of the quads, hamstrings, and increased stability exercises are great ways of preventing pain and these injuries from occurring.
Foot and Ankle Injuries
Studies show in the general population, plantar fasciitis accounts for more than 1 million doctor visits per year. Ankle sprains are reported to be the most common sports related injury which can also lead to the risk factor of developing chronic ankle instability and hip weakness. Ankle mobility is crucial for the human movement chain, foam rolling and stretching the calves is an easy solution to prevent these injuries from happening. To make it simple, the extent to which we condition our bodies directly influences our risk of injury. The less conditioned we are, the higher risk of injury. Therfore, as our daily lives include less activity, less stretching, less foam rolling, we are less prepared to partake in recreational activities such as working out, weekend sports, or simply playing with our children in the back yard. Make sure to take care of your bodies by doing your daily maintenance. Modern sports medicine research and studies show that foam rolling, static stretching (stretch and hold technique), and neuromuscular stretching (what we specialize in) are the most effective techniques to use to prevent musculoskeletal injuries.