Is stretching always necessary?
It's a lot more complicated than people realise!
When we stretch we do not make a muscle 'longer.' If every time we stretched we made a muscle physically longer, the integrity and strength of the muscle would be lost, like stretching Play-Doh.
Also when we stretch, we don’t just stretch the muscles – it’s also the tendons, ligaments, fascia, connective tissues, nerves and blood vessels.
Why do it?
To help you have the right amount of joint movement for you to be able to perform your tasks/ sports etc. For instance, a runner may have limited ankle dorsiflexion which is affecting their stride pattern; leading to injuries or poor performance.
Why does it feel good?
Probably a neurological response- normally the stretch will only feel good within certain parameters. Stretches seem to help the neuromuscular system relax; helping reduce muscle tone.
Does it help prevent injury and pain?
Yes and no!
It can help take pressure off joints and release muscle tension. But equally, has been shown to cause injury and for becoming too ‘stretchy’ can lead to instabilities.
Stretching is like health, exercise and rehabilitation - everyone has different needs. I have seen many people who are pain free and perform high level sport but can’t touch their toes. I have also seen many people who stretch religiously and have issues.
The key is to treat each case and person separately - making sure they get the stretching (or not stretching) programme they need.