How Does Flexibility Affect Your Health?

The Impact of Flexibility Training on Your Health

Most people associate flexibility with dancing, performance art, sports, or yoga. It’s considered more of a skill than a health necessity. In this respect, people would be mistaken.

Flexibility (also limberness) is more than the ability to touch your toes and bend or contort your body in ways that most people cannot achieve. It is a component of physical fitness and an indication of a body’s range of movement. The more flexible you are, the more you can do.

While some people are born naturally limber, many have to work harder to condition their musculoskeletal systems to become more flexible. If you consider yourself as one of the latter, you’ll have much to gain if you work on improving your flexibility.

Why is Flexibility Important?

Exercises that make your body more limber also improve your posture, mobility, and muscle coordination. They strengthen your core, back, and neck muscles, too.

This is because stretching is a major part of flexibility training. Stretching exercises target muscle groups, flexing and stretching them to increase their elasticity and improve their form. These exercises also condition the joints, ligaments, and tendons to be stronger and allow a wider range of motion and better control of the bones and muscles.

The musculoskeletal improvements that develop when you do flexibility exercises on the regular can give you the following health benefits:

Better Posture

When you sit on a desk for hours at a time and working on your laptop, your torso may gradually give in to gravity and become increasingly curved. Often, you don’t even notice how much you’ve slumped forward towards your computer screen until you get a crick in your neck or your back starts feeling sore.

Your muscles shorten when you are in a slumped, hunch-backed position for extended periods. It causes the tight, sore sensation in the waist and pelvic area when you rise after sitting with a curved back for hours. Doing short, flexibility exercises in-between can help alleviate the pain and correct your posture the next time you sit back down.

Additionally, sports trainers say that flexibility training can improve the body’s overall shape. It’s what contributes to many athletes’ lean and toned figures.     

Reduced Risk of Certain Ailments and Diseases

It may not register immediately, but bad posture can lead to a host of health problems. Harvard Medical School cites the following as key examples of posture-related problems:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Heartburn
  • Incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Curved spine

Posture can also impact your mood and jaw alignment, according to Harvard.

Low Risk of Injuries

A stronger and more flexible body is more capable of withstanding physical stress. This is one of the reasons why contact sports athletes incorporate stretching into their daily exercises and pre-game training programs.

Stretching expands the muscle fibers and makes them more pliable, stronger, and responsive to fight-and-flight scenarios. It also strengthens the connective tissue that supports the muscles and internal organs. Hence, people who are flexible because of regular training have a low risk of obtaining physical injuries.

Less incidence of back pain

Chronic lower back pain is often caused by a tightness of the muscles (poor posture being one of its leading causes). Stretching is one of the most recommended therapies that address chronic pain. It can both prevent and heal an existing injury. Recall, too, that the circumstances leading to a person’s heightened flexibility — habitual exercise and training of targeted muscle groups — lower the risk for injuries that may cause chronic pain.

The work that you put into increasing your flexibility can have a positive impact on your health. The outcomes discussed above are worth the effort. Work with an experienced fitness trainer so that you’re sure you’re doing the correct flexibility exercises.

girl in downward dog pose

How Stretching Can Help Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Reduce Your Stress and Anxiety through Stretching

Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, things have no doubt gotten a lot harder than before. There’s no telling when or if life will go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. This is one of the rare eras in human history wherein the future is uncertain for everyone.

You probably spent the last months exploring all options to keep yourself and your family financially healthy. Hopefully, you’ve been giving the same level of attention to your health as well. If you haven’t, now is the best time to assess your physical and mental well-being — specifically, if stress and anxiety are plaguing your waking moments.

How Stress and Anxiety Harm Your Health

The American Brain Society calls chronic stress “the silent killer” because it leads to conditions that could develop into something more dangerous. For example, it is typical for a person who’s under stress to experience headaches and body pains. But if the stress persists, there could be another possible underlying cause: irregularity in the blood flow, which results in oxygen and nutrient deprivation in some areas of the body.

Here are some of the potentially serious conditions that medical researchers have linked to stress and anxiety:

  • Digestion problems
  • Weak immune system
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • Depression and mood disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue

It’s important, therefore, to manage your stress and anxiety as quickly as possible. One way to do this (without depending on medication) is by stretching.

What Does Stretching Do for Your Body?

Harvard Medical School has published many papers and articles touting exercise as a remedy to stress and anxiety. People who exercise experience behavioral changes that are boosted by chemical production in the brain. It works this way:

  • Exercise, in general, lowers adrenaline and cortisol — stress hormones that trigger the body to go into a “flight or fight” mode.
  • Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are responsible for the relaxed and positive outlook people have after completing a rigorous exercise routine or achieving their running goals (also called “runner’s high”).
  • Exercise loosens the muscles, encourages deep breathing, and improves blood circulation. These directly combat the physical symptoms of stress, such as painful back muscles, a clenched jaw, taut facial muscles, dry mouth, and tense posture. According to Harvard researchers, putting the body in a relaxed state through exercise can send calming signals to the mind. This approach can break the stress cycle and improve mental fitness.

Stretching is the ideal type of exercise because everyone can do it regardless of their fitness level. It’s a good start for those who don’t exercise, and those who already exercise a lot can still find satisfaction in it.

When you stretch, you:

  • Make your body and thoughts slow down. You can enter a meditative state and proactively reduce your mental stress.
  • Move all muscle groups, from your face to your extremities.
  • Discover the areas in your body that are tense and need more stretching.
  • Improve your balance, posture, and spinal alignment.
  • Become more aware of your mind and body.

The Best Exercise During Quarantine

One of the best things about stretching as an exercise is you can do it anytime, anywhere. With many gyms and fitness centers being closed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, stretching is one of the few exercises that are doable in your own home — in your work chair, even.

Dedicate as much time and effort in caring for your health as you do your business. After all, you become more alert, creative, and energized to work when you’re at your peak condition.

man on sofa holding his back in pain

6 Reasons Your Back Is Killing You

Nothing disrupts an otherwise productive day like persistent back pain. Even mundane tasks — sitting at your desk, getting groceries, playing with your dog — become difficult. The small area aching dully casts a huge shadow over your daily life. About 16 million American adults have to limit their activities because of persistent or chronic back pain.

This health issue is so prevalent that medical care costs amount to over $12 billion per year, including treatments, disability payments, and missed workdays.

The medical costs per person vary, though, as back pain can have several causes. Our back pain management studio in California has encountered some aches that stem from fatigue, while others signal a possibly serious condition. Here are six common reasons you experience back pain.

Your Back Is Strained or Tense

You’d think that lifting something won’t cause problems, but it is, in fact, one of the most common causes of back pain. If your lifting form is incorrect the work won’t be distributed among the muscles properly. Some muscles would work harder than they should, causing said muscle strain. It, in turn, leads to the pain.

You Have Bad Posture

Hunching while sitting or standing causes the back muscles to strain and eventually become painful. The blood supply is reduced and the muscles experience stiffness and weakness. Moreover, bad posture places too much load on the lower spinal discs, which can lead to disc herniation (more on this later).

Your Nerves Are Pinched

When the nerves in the spinal cord are impinged or irritated, it sends pain signals to the brain, causing the discomfort and aches.

A common culprit is the herniation of the disc between the bones in the lower back. As the spinal discs grow thinner (due to age), the jelly-like part of the disc bulges out and pushes against a nerve. Another possible reason is cervical spondylosis, where the discs shrink and pinch the nerves in the spinal cord.

Your physician can determine if the pain you experience is due to a disruption to the spinal nerves.

You Have Musculoskeletal Problems

If some bones and muscle groups don’t function properly, the spinal cord and peripheral nerves may be affected.

Take Myofascial Pain Syndrome, for instance. It’s a chronic pain disorder where pressure on sensitive points in the muscles causes pain and tenderness. In many cases, the pain radiates from a peripheral nerve. Your back pain could also be due to Fibromyalgia, a condition that causes widespread chronic pain and tenderness.

Infections of the spine may also cause your back pain, but these cases are uncommon.

You Sustained Injuries in an Accident

If you experience back pain after a car accident or a fall, the trauma may have caused physical problems in your back muscles and spine. You could also sustain injuries from sports that caused back pain.

The sudden acute trauma that the spinal discs or back muscles sustain causes both dull and sharp pain in the lower back. Your physician can find out the root of the problem and recommend the appropriate treatment.

You Have an Inflamed Spine or Nerves

Back pain can be attributed to simple causes like heavy lifting or bad posture. It can also be a sign of serious conditions like Ankylosing Spondylitis (the inflammation of the spinal joints, causing pain and stiffness in the spine). It often starts with lower back pain, which then spreads to the entire body.

There can be a lot of reasons behind your back pain, but one thing’s for sure — it can limit your movement and stop you from making the most of your daily routine. So, Stretch Spot will help you cope with back pain and restore your vigor to live.

Get in touch today.

Weak Glutes and Back Pain

Ergonomic desk set-up diagram

Setting up an Ergonomic Workstation

This post is intended to help you set up an ergonomic workstation at work or home. Sitting at a desk for hours during the workday can be a killer for your body. No matter how well a workstation is designed, problems can arise if you don’t pay attention to the way your body is situated. Working at a computer often involves very few changes in body position and your body was made to move around and not to be sitting in a chair for hours on end.

Help your body by setting up a workstation that is more ergonomic

Here we go through a few ways to create a more ergonomic or more efficient and comfortable working environment. At the bottom of the post are some suggested stretches to help your body move and avoid any muscle pain or strain that can set in.

When creating a more ergonomic workstation it’s important that you adjust the furniture and equipment to suit your individual needs. This will place you in a good body posture while also reducing muscle strain and fatigue. You most likely sit in a chair so let’s concentrate on that first.

Adjust the chair’s backrest height, either up or down, to support the lumbar curve (small) of your back. To find your lumbar curve, hold your arms behind your back and comfortably clasp the opposite forearm near the elbow. When sitting at the computer, ensure your back is straight with your bottom at the back of the seat and make sure that the seat does not touch the back of your knees. This creates the correct position for your spine. If you can have a small foot rest to place your feet on that will take some stress off your lower back and legs.

Next let’s look at your desk position. Ensure that the top of your desk is high enough to allow your legs to fit comfortably underneath. If you use a computer then you more than likely use a keyboard. Position your keyboard so that it is in direct alignment with the computer screen. Make sure that the keyboard is flat to avoid typing on an angle which would put more stress on your wrists. The computer screen can be adjusted, or tilted, to a position that is about an arm’s length from your face and at an angle that your eyes are level with the top of the screen. Position the screen to minimize the glare and harsh reflections on your eyes.

Now that your workplace ‘fits’ you better, let’s look at some simple movements and stretches that are a healthy addition to your working day. When we are busy working we often don’t realize how much time has passed but it is recommended that you take a short break for 5-10 minutes for every hour spent at a workstation. If possible, stand up and walk for this time. This stretches out the legs and lower back, gets the blood moving around the body a little more, and changes your body’s position. It also gives you a short mental break from the work.

Some stretches can also be done: Reach both arms up over the head and push them to the sky while seated or standing. Hold the stretch for 5 to 7 seconds. Relax and repeat 3 to 5 times. This stretches the back, shoulders and arms. Next, take your hand and hold your fingers with the other hand. Slowly bend your wrist down until you feel a stretch on the top of your wrist. Hold the stretch for about 5 seconds. Relax and repeat 3 to 5 times. Change it up a little and slowly bend your wrist up until you feel the stretch on the bottom of your wrist. Hold and relax as you did before.

Be sure to reassess your workstation and adjust it to fit your needs and comfort level regularly and be sure to get up and move around.

Please feel free to check out more posts and tips on stretching and health here!

Check out our recommended ergonomic workstation products:

 

            

         

foam rolling

Can Myofascial Release Help Back Pain?

Many people deal with lower back pain every year and in most cases it is mechanical or non-organic simply meaning it isn’t caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture, or cancer.

Myofascial release is a manual therapy technique that can help with that bad back of yours and get you doing the activities you enjoy again. There are several myofascial release techniques that can greatly improve the mobility of the back, as well as the knees, ankles and hips. The goal of these techniques is to manipulate the myofascial tissues, which are those tough membranes that wrap, connect and support your muscles.

Your back is influenced by other muscle areas and by releasing tension in tight glutes, hamstrings, calves and quadriceps it can help improve your back mobility and posture. Using a simple tennis ball or lacrosse ball on a hard surface can do wonders to loosen up those tight connecting areas. By laying on your back and placing the tennis ball on the glutes (commonly known as the ‘butt muscles’) and rolling on it to find that tight spot can release the tension. Reposition the ball on your lower legs just midway between your knee and ankle on your calf muscle and find another point. Roll the ball up and hit the hamstring area. Flip over on your stomach and do it again on the quadriceps which is located between your knee and hip. If you don’t want to lay on the floor you can try these techniques on the bed with the tennis ball on a hardcover book, or any other hard portable surface, to stop it from sinking into the bed cushion. To have added targeted pressure on those sore trigger points you might try a lacrosse ball as it is harder and slightly smaller than a tennis ball.

A foam roller can produce fantastic results for a tight back. It provides broad and superficial strokes like the hands of a trained massage therapist stretching the tissue in multiple directions. If you sit at work all day, you undoubtedly know about stiff upper back muscles, those pesky knots between the shoulder blades and a tight mid back area. Using a foam roller can help iron out those kinks. Firstly, position the foam roller at your mid back. Have your butt on the ground and cross your arms. Slowly extend back over the roller reaching your head to the ground if possible. Roll the foam roller to your upper back keeping your shoulder blades together. This will lengthen those back muscles and ease the pressure built up.