Writer: BRAD WALKER | Outlet: Stretch Coach
Choosing the right type of stretching during your rehabilitation program will have a tremendous effect on the speed of your recovery, while choosing the wrong type could lead to further injury and a very slow recovery.
So what type of stretching is best for which phase of the recovery process?
The recovery process of a soft tissue injury can be broken down into a number of phases and it’s important that the right type of stretching be employed for each phase.
The First 72 Hours
Without a doubt, the most effective, initial treatment for soft tissue injury is the R.I.C.E.R. regimen. This involves the application of (R) rest, (I) ice, (C) compression, (E) elevation and obtaining a (R) referral for appropriate medical treatment.
Where the R.I.C.E.R. regimen has been used immediately after the occurrence of an injury, it has been shown to significantly reduce recovery time. R.I.C.E.R. forms the first, and perhaps most important stage of injury rehabilitation, providing the early base for the complete recovery of injury.
However, during this phase of the rehabilitation process NO STRETCHING should be used at all! This is not the time to start stretching. Concentrate on the R.I.C.E.R. regimen and avoid all stretching or any activity that puts stress on the injured area.
The Next 10 to 14 Days
After the first 72 hours most of the initial swelling will have subsided and you can start with some gentle active rehabilitation techniques.
The most effective treatment at this stage is the use of heat and massage, but including light, gentle static and passive stretching exercises after your heat and massage treatment will help to dramatically speed up the recovery process. So what is static and passive stretching?
- Static stretching is performed by placing the body into a position whereby the muscle (or group of muscles) to be stretched is under tension. Both the opposing muscle group and the muscles to be stretched are relaxed. Then slowly and cautiously the body is moved to increase the tension of the stretched muscle group. At this point the position is held or maintained to allow the muscles to lengthen.
- Passive stretching is very similar to static stretching; however another person or apparatus is used to help further stretch the muscles. Due to the greater force applied to the muscles, this form of stretching is slightly more hazardous.
Therefore it is very important that any apparatus used is both solid and stable. When using a partner it is imperative that no jerky or bouncing force is applied to the stretched muscle. So, choose your partner carefully, they must be responsible for your safety while stretching.
The important point to remember during this phase of the rehabilitation process is light, gentle stretching. Never, never, never do any activity that hurts the injured area. Of course you may feel some discomfort, but never push yourself to the point where you’re feeling pain. Be very careful with any activity you do. Pain is the warning sign; don’t ignore it.