Our culture loves stretching. Neck pain? Stretch it. Tight Hammies? Stretch ’em. Oh, you run? You should probably do yoga. Lots of it. Were you in a car crash? You need to stretch. Insert anything wrong that has happened to you or any pain, and someone in the Facebook comments will say you need to stretch. But this may be the most common mistake because there are more tissues that stretch than muscles.
What else stretches besides muscles? Although you may not feel them, or even know that the feeling of stretch you’re experiencing is your nerves being pulled. Yep. When a nerve becomes sensitive due to chemical or mechanical irritation, you feel a stretch after being tensioning it. Take a look at this picture of a man performing what most children do for fun. This is a tension or stretch test for the ulnar nerve in your arm. If you feel something around your funny bones near your elbows, it could be your ulnar nerve.
Now, look at this picture below. This is a full tension test on the nerve located on the back of your leg. A big misconception is that this test indicates tight hamstrings. It more than likely shows neural tension and that stretching will not help you.
The Problem with Stretching
Unlike muscles, nerves don’t enjoy a ton of stretching. In fact, we see it makes the problem worse! Not stretching your nerves helps the nerve heal. Instead we use neurodynamic mobilizations, recovery positions, and an exam to find the primary issue causing nerve sensitivity.
We do use stretching when we find that the muscle in question requires stretching. This usually happens when a patient has pain with leaning back or chest pain with overhead work. We make sure that nerves are not the tissue being stretched and the muscles are.
Always double check to see what you’re stretching. Your pain may be affected dramatically by it. If you need help and are not sure, feel free to reach out to us.
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