Pain or stiffness in the joints may be a sign of muscle tension or tight fascia. The fascia makes up the connective tissue that surrounds our body parts holding together the organs, bones, muscles. The connective tissue contains nerves making it highly sensitive tissue, it is designed to move with our bodies and helps us to twist and bend without pain!
There are a variety of different ways in which Fascia can tighten, the most common culprit is physical inactivity and stress. Sitting down for prolonged periods of time not only leads to tightening of fascia but also presents numerous other significant health risks, if we don’t use the muscles within our body overtime the fascia can tighten or thicken leading to immobility.
With our current busy lifestyles, we lead stressful lives there is no denying. Poor posture can also lead to tightening of fascia which can impede nervous system function! The benefits of stretching regularly are vast and include some of the following but aren’t limited to
- Joint Range of motion and muscle lengthening
- Muscle weakness
- Reduction of injury risk
- Relief of tension and stress
- Help increase body temperature prior to exercise to avoid injury
- Cool Down protocols
- Improvements in posture and movement
Three techniques you can start to incorporate into your daily routine in order to start enjoying the benefits of improved range of motion and flexibility include.
Photo from healthline.com
1. Foam Rolling – Foam rolling is a form of self myofascial release or could be simply called as “self-massag”. It is a technique that can increase muscle flexibility and can relieve muscle tightness, tension, soreness and inflammation to increase joint range of motion. To avoid rolling over small joints like your knees, elbows or ankles which could cause them to hyperextend aim to roll out each body part separately for 30 seconds-1 minute and repeat for 3-4 sets prioritising area causing the most tightness of discomfort.
Choosing your foam roller can also be a challenging task with smooth rollers which are often a good, cheaper place to start prior to moving into textured rollers which have more bumps, ridges and knobs that can get into deep knots. Alternatively Foam covered massage sticks and massage balls can be used to target the muscles or the upper back, shoulders or deeply massaging into the legs.
2. Static Stretching –Static stretching can make a positive difference in how well your muscles recover following physical activity, enhancing your range of motion during athletic performance, improving flexibility and mitigating injury risk. Static stretching involves lengthening the muscle near its furthest point and holding that stretch for 15-20 seconds focusing on a single muscle group with each stretch. Ideally save this type of exercise for after your workouts, particularly if performing strength training. A simple example is a traditional seated hamstring stretch held for 20-30 seconds.
3. Dynamic Stretching – Alternatively dynamic stretching involves active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion, they are often utilised to help warm the body up prior to exercise! Often dynamic stretching is utilised to simulate movements that are likely relevant to the activity that is about to be performed. A simple example would be a swimmer performing arm circumduction prior to getting in the pool.
Read more on The Different Types of Stretches Before A Workout.