“Doc, I stretch all the time, I do yoga two days a week and even go for regular massages. Why am I always so tight and sore?” Every day I am faced with this question, so I decided it would be a good opportunity to let you all in on an ironic, yet true statement.
“Reoccurring tightness or muscle strain is often times caused by weakness.”
Contrary to what most people think, overstretching of a muscle is NOT the main cause of muscle strain. Research has actually shown that, muscle strains occur in the normal range of motion rather than the overstretched range. Muscle strains are a result of increased tension in the muscle before it has had time to lengthen. Hence, whenever a weak muscle is overworked, it will tighten and, therefore, be more subject to stress and strain. A great example of this is seen in individuals who spend countless hours at a desk and complain of upper back stiffness and pain. As a result of the repetitive sitting, we place a constant strain on the postural back muscles, which in turn become tight and weak. As those of you who suffer from this problem can attest to; although you may feel better for a short time after stretching, the problem continues to reoccur. Solution…STRENGTHEN THE MUSCLES! Strengthening the postural muscles in this case, would allow them to have greater muscular endurance to support proper alingment and posture during prolonged sitting (Disclaimer: regardless how strong your muscles are I still don’t recommend prolonged sitting).
Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves. I am by no means saying that stretching is not useful, but simply, that strengthening is often times not emphasized enough. Regardless if you are suffering from reoccurring muscle strains or not, this is just another example illustrating the importance of strengthening exercises for optimal human function, health and injury prevention.