Help Relieve Muscle and Joint Stiffness
Achy muscles and joints generally are associated with muscle tightness, arthritis or inflammation, even certain medications. Muscle attaches to our skeleton via connective tissue such as our tendons and is prone to constriction at various points along a muscle fiber. To relieve tight trigger points from constricted or sore muscles, range of motion training or stretching is recommended.
Various reasons can be had as to why we become ‘tight’. We can improperly perform a movement or exercise resulting in tweaked muscle tissue, we can be inactive which results in natural muscle constriction but also weakening of muscle or we can overdo certain movements which causes our muscles to go into spasm.
With any type of flexibility training, you should always work on getting your muscles warmed up. Here is an example of a quick, yet effective warm up:
- Seated or standing March in Place
- Seated Alternating Leg Extensions
- Shoulder Shrugs
- Arm Rotations Forward/Backward
- Ankle Rotations
Perform each movement continually for 20-30 seconds before moving to the next movement. Then progress to stretching.
The following stretches target various aspects of the body. Muscles that span major joints will be able to go through controlled stretches. As with any type of movement, it is important to remember that if it hurts above a normal discomfort level back off the stretch. If the pain persists, stop the stretch. Be aware of your body and what your joint health is. Some joint replacements have special precautions when it comes to range of motion so make sure you are aware of any limitations your doctor may have recommended to you.
The recommended exercise prescription for these stretches is as follows:
- Perform stretches 3-5 times a week, daily is preferred.
- Select some or all the stretches to perform. You do not have to do all of them.
- Hold stretch to point of mild discomfort and hold. Do not bounce.
- The duration of hold for certain stretches will vary.
- For neck stretches, the duration of hold should be 5-10 seconds.
- The reason for this is that blood pressure can increase causing dizziness and lightheadedness in some.
- All other stretches, the duration of hold will be for 15-30 seconds.
- Repeat each stretch 2-3 times depending your level of tightness.
Chin Over Shoulder
Sit with hip mid-point in chair and with vertical posture. Keep hip flat on chair, rest hands on thighs and keep shoulders level, slowly rotate head as far over shoulder as possible without twisting torso. Hold and repeat.
Head Tilt Over Shoulder
Sit with hip mid-point in chair and with vertical posture. Resting hands on thighs and shoulders level, slowly tilt head as far over shoulder as possible without leaning torso. Think about one your ears going to shoulder and the other up to the ceiling. Hold and repeat.
Chin to Chest
Sit with hip mid-point in chair and with vertical posture. Resting hands on thighs and shoulders level, slowly tilt head forward as far as possible without slumping shoulders forward. Hold and repeat.
Upper Body Stretches
Arm Across Chest
Sit with hip mid-point in chair and with vertical posture. Take one arm and bring it out in front holding a straight line from shoulder to wrist. Bring as far across chest as possible. Take opposite hand, grasp elbow of straight arm and pull gentle across chest. Hold and repeat.
Overhead Triceps Stretch
Sit with hip mid-point in chair and with vertical posture. Feet shoulder remain under knees. Take one arm and bring up and behind head reaching hand to back of neck. Take opposite hand, grasp elbow and gentle pull elbow down. Hold and repeat.
Note: if you have chronic shoulder pain or impingement, do not perform stretch.
Make sure to use a door frame or sturdy chair. Place one hand, with fingertips pointing backward, on the frame or chair and gently turn body away from your hand allowing your arm to remain straight. Rotate until a gentle stretch is felt in the biceps. Hold and repeat.
Standing Bent Over Lat Stretch
Utilize a table, counter-top, or sturdy chair. Place hands firmly on surface. Slowly walk backward taking small steps until you begin leaning forward from the hip, not the lower back. Work to have the hip over the heels for balance. Continue letting the torso drop while keeping the arms straight. Lower until you feel a stretch in your back and sides of torso. Upon completion of the stretch, walk feed slowly forward lifting the torso. Take a breath in and regain balance.
Seated Chest Stretch
Sit with hip midpoint in chair. Place hands behind head lifting elbows up and back. Slowly move upper back backward while working to keep lower back stable. Think as if you were pushing your shoulders back while pushing your belly forward. Also focus on pushing elbows backward opening the chest. Breathe normally and repeat for desired sets.
Seated Torso Rotation
Sit in chair with hip at mid-point. Keep both knees hip width apart and feet flat on the ground. With torso vertical, slowly begin twisting either left or right. Use the arm of the chair or the thigh to help support the rotation. Make sure to not incorporate a lean into the rotation. Hold and repeat on the other side.
Lower Body Stretches
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Sit with hip towards edge of chair and knees hip width apart. The torso should be vertical. Extend one knee forward resting heel comfortably on the ground. Reach both arms out in front and then slowly begin to lean forward (from the hip, not the lower back) and then down toward your lower leg. Aim to reach for you toe of the extended leg. Hold and repeat.
Seated Quadriceps Stretch
Sit with hip towards edge of seat with an offset to either the right or left to start. Make sure hip is still firmly on seat. Grasp ahold of the forward-facing legs ankle or pant leg. Pull the heel towards the rear hip and allow the knee to drop towards the ground. Keep an upright posture and continue to pull to the point of stretch. Repeat on opposite side.
Standing Calf Stretch
Standing facing a sturdy chair or wall. Place your hands on the base of support and step one foot back into a mini lunge. Bend your front leg and keep your back leg straight. Lean into the wall and press your back heel down so its flat on the ground. The further apart your feet are the deeper the stretch will be. Repeat on the other side.