Stretching tight muscles before running could be detrimental!

Stretching ‘tight’ hamstrings could be dangerous! (image courtesty of stretching stock images/ free digital photos.net)

Stretching tight muscles before running could be detrimental!

Stretching Tight Muscles before Running: Long vs Short

We all suffer from muscle tightness and stiffness at some point. Every day in our clinics we see clients who report having really tight hamstrings, calves, necks… and so on. What many people don’t realise, however, is that the muscles that feel tight are not always the muscles that need to be stretched out. Our bodies are much more sophisticated than that!

When you hear the word “tight” most of you may think “short”, and you would be right. Muscles can be short and tight. However, as many of our previous and current clients have found out, muscles can also be long and tight at the same time!

Think of an elastic band. As you stretch out the band it comes under tension. Our muscles work in a similar way. If you think of your joints as pulley systems, there are different muscles on opposite sides that do opposite jobs which we call agonist/antagonist pairs (this is putting it very simply!). If one muscle, let’s use the quads as an example, is working very hard to extend the knee, the hamstrings are going to resist that movement. If the quads are working a lot harder than the hamstrings then the hamstrings can’t fully resist the movement and they start to lengthen; and like our elastic band, as they lengthen they come under tension and start to feel tight. Now, to the untrained hand and eye it is actually very difficult to tell the difference between a “short tight” and a “long tight” muscle. When most people feel a muscle is tight they do not consider its length. And if a muscle is tight it needs to be stretched right? This where the problem lies!

Think ‘long and tight’ and ‘short and tight’ from now on! (image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography / free digital photos.net

Stretching out a “long tight” muscle only makes it tighter!

If you have tight hamstrings, it may in fact be a quad issue!

Again thinking back to our elastic band, as the muscle gets longer and longer it comes under more and more tension and therefore becomes more and more vulnerable. Going back to our quads and hamstrings example: if your quads are overworking and your hamstrings become “long tight”, you may feel like you have tight hamstrings but not tight quads (which are in fact “short tight”). As you stretch your hamstrings out, you add to the problem by making the hamstrings longer and tighter, and because the hamstrings are now longer (and therefore even weaker at resisting the short and powerful quads), the quads become even more short and tight! And this is when thinking of joints as simplified pulley systems. Now take into account the fact that what is happening at the foot can impact what is happening at the hip, shoulder, neck… it really becomes quite messy!

The body has many different muscles so don’t always stretch the good old hamstrings!! (image courtesy of farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)ite messy!

Sports Massage and ‘tight’ muscles

The same concept goes for Sports Massage, most people will go for  a massage and get these ‘tight’ muscles worked on when in fact the brain will not like this and further tension the muscles as a reaction. This is why an assessment of how YOU actually move and how your body moves is so important. At ProSport Physiotherapy clinics and sports massage Huddersfield our therapists are very aware of the effects that short tight and long tight muscles can have on the body. In our sessions we identify the CAUSE of muscle tightness and pain, and don’t just treat the symptoms. If you do feel tight and stiff, don’t just pass it off because you don’t feel like you’re actually injured. We love to see clients who come to us BEFORE an injury (our mobility MOT service is dedicated to it!). So think again before stretching muscles blindly, and seek professional help if you are unsure!

Wrap up

To conclude, the body is an intricate machine. Motion is a delicate process which is partly controlled by the musculature system. Muscles work in tandem to keep the body moving, however, as some muscles get over or under-worked due to injury, training, stress etc., the body compensates in a whole manner of ways. One of these ways is by tightening up, but as you hopefully now understand from reading this article, a tight muscle isn’t always short. If you have recurring muscle tightness or similar issues either look elsewhere in the body or book in now to avoid problems down the line, as if the problem keeps coming back then you have not yet found the cause!

Call us now to book an appointment on 07003 400 543 or book online.

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