Are you overstretching? How to recognize it, and what to do if an injury happens.
You’re in the zone, sinking into your lunge, and… ouch! Overstretching has happened to most of us, and it hurts. Whether it’s from not warming up properly or pushing our bodies too hard too soon, there is a fine line between stretching and overstretching, and recognizing it comes down to our body awareness. Feeling some discomfort is okay, but sharp pain tells us that something is not right, and we need to stop and carefully get out of the stretch.
Another lesser-recognized way to spot overstretching is second-day soreness. If we’re stretching properly, our muscles should not ache the next day (unless, of course, you’ve paired your stretching with strength training!). So if you’re sore after your stretching sessions, it’s a likely sign that you’re overstretching your muscles.
Unfortunately, overstretching can lead to more serious problems than just soreness, such as strains caused by overstretching a tendon, and sprains caused by overstretching or tearing a ligament.
Although listening to your body, taking it slowly, and ensuring your muscles are warm are all good ways to prevent overstretching injuries, it’s still important to know what to do in case of injury.
You may have heard of the R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) method for dealing with a soft tissue injury, but experts now prefer a method called P.E.A.C.E & L.O.V.E. Here’s how it goes:
Protect your injury by restricting movement and avoiding putting weight on the limb for about 1-3 days. This will reduce your risk of aggravating the injury.
Elevate the limb immediately after injury and as frequently as possible for the next couple of days. The injured spot should be higher than the heart!
Avoid anti-inflammatory modalities such as aspirin and ibuprofen as they reduce soft tissue healing! This includes applying ice.
Compress your injured limb with external mechanical pressure such as tape, bandages, or compression sleeves or stockings.
Educate yourself on the nature of your injury and how you can treat it through active recovery in the following days. You know your body best!
After a few days, your soft tissue injury will need some L.O.V.E:
Load weight on your injured muscle very gradually. Listen to your body, and go as slowly and carefully as you need to.
Optimism is often overlooked in the recovery process, but it’s proven to be beneficial for your spirit as well as your physical healing. Be kind to yourself, and if you find yourself spiraling, call a friend.
Vascularization is a key step in the healing process. Include cardiovascular physical activity in your movement practice to increase blood flow to recovering structures, reduce pain, and boost your motivation.
Exercise will help you rebuild lost muscle and flexibility after your injury. As mentioned earlier, use pain as your guide, and progress your level of movement gradually!
Even if you take the necessary precautions to steer clear of a soft tissue injury, it’s still wise to be prepared with P.E.A.C.E & L.O.V.E, just in case!
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