Stretching to Build Pain Tolerance


We all need to stretch in order to protect our mobility and independence.

Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy, and helps us retain that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints.

Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.

For example, sitting in a chair all day results in tight hamstrings in the back of the thigh. That can make it harder to extend your leg or straighten your knee all the way, which affects walking.

Regular stretching keeps muscles long, lean, and flexible, and this means that exertion won't put too much force on the muscle itself.

Healthy muscles also help a person with balance problems to avoid falls.

Independently of your age or health status, there are ways you can carry out stretches in a safe way.

Key points to remember:

  • You don't have to stretch every muscle you have. The areas critical for mobility are in your lower extremities. Stretching your shoulders, neck, and lower back is also beneficial. Aim for a program of daily stretches or at least three or four times per week.
  • Find a physical therapist who can assess your muscle strength and tailor a stretching program to fit your needs.
  • If you have chronic conditions such as Parkinson's disease or arthritis, you'll want to clear a new stretching regimen with your doctor before you start.
  • Stretching once today won't magically give you perfect flexibility. You'll need to do it over time and remain committed to the process.
  • You'll feel tension during a stretch, but you should not feel pain. If you do, there may be an injury or damage in the tissue. Stop stretching that muscle and talk to your doctor.
  • When stretching, try to hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Don't bounce, as this can cause injury.

Did you know?

Although we used to believe that stretching was necessary to warm up the muscles and prepare them for activity, research has shown that stretching the muscles before they're warmed up can actually hurt them. Try a short walk to warm up the muscles before stretching. You can also stretch after an aerobic or weight-training workout.

A trained exercise physiotherapist who specialises in chronic pain management is a great place to start and your pain specialist can recommend one for you.


Mayo Clinic:

Page, Phil (2012) ‘Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation.’ Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Feb; 7(1): 109–119.

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