8 benefits of stretching
Including reducing lupus pain
Do you stretch frequently?
I noted that yoga stretches reduce my pain. First, I thought it was because I was stretching the connected tissue; but there is much more. I have noticed that when I don’t exercise or stretch, my lupus pain gets worse.
And that’s because stretching has a lot of benefits, for lupus patients, like me, and any other people, according to Live Science, like:
When we’re stressed, not only does our heart rate increase, but we tend to tighten our muscles. Stretching helps relax tight muscles while also taking personal time to focus on your body and slow down.
Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. We need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend.
Sitting in front of a computer can be uncomfortable, but also cause a muscular imbalance between the front and the back of the body. This is because the chest (pectoral) muscles start to shorten and tighten, while the muscles in the back start to lengthen and weaken.
To bring the spine back into an upright position, stretching the muscles in the front and the back supports and holds the spine upright to improve and maintain optimal posture.
Alleviate back pain:
Stretching can help alleviate pain by loosening up tension in the muscles and increasing blood flow to the area. For mid and upper back stiffness, dynamic stretches such as the ‘cat-cow or the ‘thread-the-needle’ stretch can help to gently mobilize the spine and stretch the muscles surrounding it.
Stretching the Quadratus Lumborum is beneficial for lower back pain: the muscle is located on the lower back on either side of the spine. It can benefit from being stretched, as it is often tight and overused by having to compensate for the other stabilizing muscles.
The more sleep we get, the more energized and focused we’ll feel. But, for some of us, we find it hard even to drift off. Stretching, as part of yoga, can improve the quality of sleep by reducing mental stimulation. When you’re still or stretching and breathing, you go from sensory overload to a sense of slowing down, and a quality of ease begins to run throughout the body.
When injury strikes, it could mean weeks, if not months, out of your fitness routine. Hence, stretching is a great way to make sure this doesn’t happen. It increases blood supply and oxygen to your muscles and joints, allowing greater nutrient transportation and improving blood circulation throughout the entire body. Better circulation translates directly to a quicker recovery aiding in the relief of any post-exercise aches and pains.
Preps the body for exercise:
As well as injury prevention, stretching can be a great way to get the body ready for exercise, especially if you’re putting it under a lot of strain. Dynamic stretching increases blood flow to the muscles and is a great way to prepare the body for more intensive exercise. It can also enhance physical performance, as it increases the mobility of the joint, therefore maximizing the potential of the muscle to produce more force.
As movements such as running and cycling consist of many repetitive movement patterns, specific muscles can become overused and tight – for example, the hip flexors. Static stretching after a workout can help to restore this muscle imbalance.
Sometimes we need a way to mentally digest the day and calm our bodies and mind down. Research has shown that static stretching activates your parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for your rest and digestion functions, and it helps induce feelings of calmness and relaxation.
But there is a dichotomy – how to exercise and stretch when I am in pain?!?
Well, according to my doctor, it is by taking a pain killer and just doing it. Slowly but surely, the pain gets better. With the fatigue, it is so easy to stay put and sleep under the weighted blanket, but that has its pros and cons.
So, it’s all about balance – rest and exercise to feel better. Listen to your body and respect its limits.