How to Stretch
Most of us have been taught to stretch by force–the "no pain, no gain" philosophy–using one group of muscles or weights to force another group of muscles to stretch. Unfortunately, this technique is not very successful. Every muscle cell has wrapped around it a stretch reflex nerve. If the muscle is stretched to the point of pain, the stretch reflex nerve sends a signal to the spinal cord and the spinal cord then sends a signal back and the muscle contracts (it's a form of self protection). Once the muscle contracts you won't be able to gain any more stretch in it.
The most successful stretch is a mindful stretch. That is, you take the muscle into stretch only until you feel the restriction–not pain. Now bring your full attention into that point of restriction. Take a deep breath. Let the air out of your lungs as you consciously relax all the muscles around that point of restriction. This may allow you to move further into the stretch. Now the point of restriction may change or it may stay in the same place. Bring your full attention into this point and repeat as many times as you feel necessary.
You'll find this technique many times more effective than force in gaining range of motion and freedom from pain.
Fingers and Thumbs Flexor Stretch
Your muscles are arranged in pairs; for every muscle that moves a joint in one direction, there are opposing muscles groups that move that joint in the opposite direction. That's why a good fitness coach will always have you balance opposing muscles groups when doing strengthening excercises. If you don't, one group of muscles become stronger than its partners and dominates, thus pulling your body into distorted posture.
The muscles we use most in industries and the arts are the flexor muscles of our fingers, thumb and hand. These are the muscles we use to grip with. If we don't stretch these and balance the opposing muscles (the extensors) the flexors will dominate and shorten, thus exacerbating the pain/spasm/pain cycle we talked about above.
One of the best stretches for these flexor muscles is: put the palms of your hands together in front of you, as if you were praying. Lift your elbows outward until you feel resistance. Good. Now, keeping your elbows out, bring your hands down while keeping your palms together. Feel the stretch in your forearms. Take a deep breath and keep your attention in those points of resistance as you let the air out of your lungs and relax all the muscles in your hands and forearms. This may allow you to move further into the stretch. Repeat 2-3 more times.
Flexor Muscles Stretch
Exercises for the Extensors
The best exercise for the extensor muscles of the fingers and thumb is:
Find a fairly strong rubber band of medium length. You'll want one that offers you good resistance but still allows you full range of motion.
Wrap the rubber band around the tips of your fingers and thumb. Now open your fingers as if it were a flower opening. Open to full range of motion and then relax. Repeat as many times as feels comfortable and then change to the opposite hand.
Carry this rubber band around with you and exercise at any time.
Extensor Muscles Exercise
These are just two of the many valuable techniques you'll learn from using our video Self Care for Repetitive Motion Injuries. Order this innovative video now.
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