Flexibility is generally a good thing. It can help prevent injuries and improve overall health and comfort. However, there are several dangers related to overstretching your muscles. Often, chronically overstretched muscles have parallel fibers that barely overlap, inhibiting the cellular bands from being able to move over one another and contract normally. Pain and injury can result, as can other related issues.
Muscles that are overly stretched become elongated and weakened, hampering their ability to absorb stress the way healthy muscles do. When muscles aren’t able to properly absorb stress, added stress falls on the joints. Such hyper-flexibility often results in excessive movement of the pelvis during walking. Sometimes referred to as “sachet” style walking, this swaying is more than an attention-getting gait: It causes overuse of the pelvis and lower back joints.
Hip Abductor Issues
A person with chronically overstretched muscles often has problems with their hip abductor muscles. Women are particularly at risk, due to their broader pelvises, especially when they sleep on their sides or participate in yoga stretches.
Compromised Support Structures
When muscles are overstretched, ligaments and other structures that support joints can suffer. Stress to ligamentous structures can be more serious than the problems with the muscles themselves, because lengthened muscles can be retrained through exercises, whereas damage to ligaments and cartilage is permanent. Since hip flexors are among the most commonly overstretched muscles, lower back pain can be the result. Once a person stops stretching, that pain can be quickly alleviated.
With so many problems associated with overstretching, you may be wondering if there’s anything good about stretching, at all? Yes, there are many positive effects of stretching; the key is to know the right amount to stretch. First, you need to know the normal range of muscles and joints as well as your own range. If your range is already excessive, you won’t benefit by stretching into that particular position. (The only exception to that rule is if you require an excessive range of motion for a particular task.) For those who lack normal muscle flexibility, stretching can be quite beneficial. Stiffness caused by overly tight muscle groups can lead to instability and pain.
If you’re among those with chronically overstretched muscles, you may not realize it. If you’re stretching constantly or always including stretches in your fitness routine and sometimes experiencing pain, you may be at risk. Even without constant stretching, you may have excessive joint flexibility. Either way, if you can touch both palms to the floor while standing, without practice or prior stretching, you should probably work on strengthening your core with pilates instead of increasing flexibility further through yoga.
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com or call them at 202-223-8500.
From the PhysioDC blog
- A physical therapist’s take on postural workout shirts
- The importance of practicing balancing on one leg
- How soon can I begin working out after having shoulder surgery?
Image credits: Top by Andres Rodriguez/Fotolia; Middle by Zsolt Nyulaszi/Fotolia; Bottom by serge2302/Fotolia.