The majority of the pain in our bodies results from muscle tension and tendon strain. From lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and even headaches, the root cause is muscle tension. Even nerve compression conditions such as sciatic pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome can have their root in muscle tension. In the case of sciatic pain, one cause can be a tight piriformis muscle that presses on the nerve, causing the pain down the back of the leg. For carpal tunnel syndrome, tight wrist muscles chronically pull on tendons, causing them to become inflamed, pressing on nerves into the hand.
The tension or relaxation in muscles affect the position of bones, so our posture is determined by the muscles. Tight muscles cause poor posture, and poor posture keeps the muscles tight. This is a viscous circle that builds on itself and is hard to break without some outside help.
Tight muscles can also compress the blood supply into the muscles, causing reduced blood flow and buildup of acids in the muscle. This irritates the nerves, causing pain. This pain flows up into the spinal cord and brain, and then causes a downward reaction through the nervous system, sending signals to the muscle to tighten up even more. This is called the pain/spasm/pain cycle. Tight muscles cause pain, which cause the muscle to become tighter, causing more pain.
Stretching can break this cycle of pain by reseting the length of muscles.
How does stretching work
Besides the length of muscles being determined by posture and spasming from pain, the length of muscles is also controlled by specialized cells within the muscle called golgi tendon organs and spindle cells. The control what is called the Stretch Reflex. These cells make sure that the muscle doesn’t allow itself to lengthen too far. If a muscle did not have these cells, it would just keep lengthening, and possibly tear. Before this happens these nerve cells tell the muscle to tighten up, to avoid damage. Unfortunately, they can start have the muscle fire before it should- keeping the muscle continually short and tight, not allowing it to lengthen.
Stretching with resistance, the type of stretching practiced at iFlex, reprograms the stretch reflex, allowing the muscle to lengthen. This lengthening breaks the pain/spasm/pain cycle, adjusts the posture, and allows the muscles to get a full blood supply. This in turn reduces pain.
Stretching is a root-cause solution that address the source of pain. Unlike drugs like advil which numb the pain temporarily, stretching offers a healthy alternative that results in a permanent solution in the long run. Keeping loose through stretching can off other benefits besides pain relief, benefits such as increased energy, more muscular control, and a release of feel-good hormones.
Being in pain and knowing where to stretch can be difficult. This is why getting assisted stretching for pain relief is a great solution. At iFlex, our Stretch Therapists know how to perform a 8 point evaluation to discover the exact patterns of tension that are causing your pain, and then tailor each stretch session to your specific needs. This targeted, professional level stretching is what athletes use to stay at the top of their game, and is the premier choice for reducing pain as well.