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Stretching is the gold standard for regaining range of motion (ROM) following an injury or surgery. In addition, stretching serves to improve ROM for general fitness, athletics, or activities of daily living (ADLs). Two of the most common types of stretching are dynamic and static stretching. A dynamic stretch is performed by moving through a challenging but comfortable ROM repeatedly for a set amount of repetitions, typically ranging from 10-15. Static stretching involves a single stretch held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, usually 30 seconds for an optimal stretch.
Which type is better? When should they be performed? As the clinic director at the ATI Physical Therapy Mooney Drive clinic, I see the full spectrum of injuries from sprain/strains to postoperative patients. Using best practice, our clinicians initially treat patients using static stretching techniques, performed in a challenging but tolerated range. This allows the injured tissues to heal in a lengthened position and reduces chances of adhesions, which reduces the likelihood of re-injury. Patients are then progressed toward returning to dynamic stretching, which improves functional ROM and mobility, whether the goal is to return to a sport, exercise, or ADLs.
ATI clinicians use these strategies to address many injuries; though some, such as hamstring strains, are very common. Hamstring strains can occur during a sporting event, work out, or during more strenuous ADLs such as yard work. Following a hamstring injury, static stretching should be initiated in the early stages of healing. Here, at the Mooney Drive clinic, patients perform clinician assisted static hamstring stretching while being educated on gentle static hamstring stretches as part of their individualized home exercise program (HEP). Performing these stretches can assist in reducing tissue adhesions and increasing flexibility of the injured muscle. An example of a static hamstring stretch for a patient would be sitting on the edge of a bench with the injured leg extended straight. The patient then gently brings his or her chest forward until a stretch is felt in the back of the thigh and knee, holding from 15-30 seconds. This can be performed for three repetitions and repeated 2-3 times per day. Once a patient is able to tolerate static stretching without return of symptoms, he or she is progressed to dynamic stretches including foam roll rolling, Frankensteins, and inch worms. The ultimate goal of performing static and dynamic stretching is for a patient to regain flexibility and joint mobility allowing a return to the previous level of function.
Once a patient has returned to his or her prior level of function, it is recommended that the patient perform a 5-10 minute dynamic stretching warm-up prior to activity. This increases heart rate, improves tissue mobility, enhances performance, and reduces chance of injury during exercise. Following exercise, as muscles tend to tighten due to repetitive use, static stretching increases overall flexibility and helps return muscles to their previous length. Compliance with a stretching regimen can help to significantly reduce chance of re-injury during activity.
Used together, dynamic and static stretching serve functional purposes to both avoid and improve healing time of injuries. If you have suffered a recent muscle strain and want to participate in a free injury screening, please contact our Mooney Drive location at 815-936-0611 to set up a time to meet with one of our clinicians.
Physical Therapist Assisted Hamstring Stretch
With patient in supine and injured leg relaxed. The physical therapist gentle raises the leg keeping the knee straight until patient reports feeling stretching behind their thigh and knee.
Edge of Table Static Hamstring Stretch
Sitting on the edge of a bench with injured leg straight. Gently bring chest forward until a stretch is felt in the back of the thigh and knee holding from 15-30 seconds.
While standing tall and keeping your back in neutral, kick your foot up towards your outstretched hand on the opposite side of the leg. Make sure to keep the knee straight and not slouch in the back