Many believe that sports physical therapy and even some of performance training should consist of a great deal of stretching.
However, every component of injury rehabilitation or training should have a definitive purpose. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, what do I hope to gain from stretching this area and does this area need to be stretched?
As with most things, the answer is that it depends and begins by understanding why a muscle has become stiff in the first place.
Muscles become stiff when they are in a shortened position for long periods of time and wind up feeling stiff. Muscles remain in a shortened position when the body stays in one position for too long (such as staying sitting or standing all day at work) or when the body is stressed the same way repeatedly (ex. When we repetitively move in the same way without variety).
Adding some variety to the movements that you perform daily may be the solution to fixing “tight” muscles!
Stretching an area that feels stiff without correcting the reason that it became stiff in the first place will waste your time.
As a side note, a muscle may also become stiff to protect against an injury (very common with back pain) and stretching this area can increase the risk of experiencing an injury!
Next time you think of stretching a muscle, don’t forget to ask yourself why this muscle stiff in the first place!