A question I frequently get asked in clinic is, “how can I become more flexible?” Often this question comes from patients and people like myself who have never been flexible and who find it difficult to stretch or gain any range from stretching.
Luckily there some advanced stretching techniques widely practiced amongst Occupational Therapists, Physios and Musculoskeletal Therapists, which I’ll share with you today. These techniques make stretching easier because it ‘tricks’ the sensors in our muscles allowing them to relax and stretch further.
This stretching technique is called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF.) Now the word is a mouthful, but when you know a key few steps, the technique is relatively simple and easy to apply.
PNF involves passively stretching a muscle group, then contracting the muscle against resistance while in the stretched position, then passively stretching again which increases the range of motion and helps you to stretch further, increasing flexibility.
How to practice PNF techniques:
Taking the target muscle to a comfortable stretch, holding for 20-30 seconds, contracting that muscle for 15 seconds, and then relax and bring the muscle further to the next comfortable stretch. Usually 3-5 times or until you hit end range.
Here is an example applied to hamstrings:
-Place one foot on a chair, knee slightly bent.
-Lean forward and stretch over the foot on the chair as far as you can, until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh. Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds.
-Contract your hamstrings by pushing your heel down against the chair, bending at the knee. Contract for 15 seconds.
-Release the contacted hamstring and then lean further forward, taking to new stretch and hold for 20 seconds.You should be able to stretch further than before.
Things to remember:
-Don’t overdo it! If you’re feeling pain, back off a little to a comfortable stretch. If pain is consistently stopping you from stretching, you may have joint or muscle problems that need to be addressed by a professional.
-When you gain muscle range, gain muscle strength! If you gain lots of flexibility without muscle stability your joints can be unstable.
Davin Vanstone is a Remedial Therapist with a Bachelors Degree in Musculoskeletal Therapy. He works from Vibe Natural Health in Brisbane. If you would like to book an appointment with Davin to improve your flexibility using Musculoskeletal Therapy book online now or to learn more about the benefits of Musculoskeletal Therapy visit our website