Assisted stretching may be the secret to relieving chronic pain

When you think of stretching, you probably picture it as an independent activity where a person bends down to touch their toes or pull their arm over their head. While this is certainly an effective way to stretch your muscles and improve flexibility, assisted stretching has gained traction to not only increase range of motion but also reduce chronic pain. So what is it? According to a report by CNN, assisted stretching involves a trained practitioner stretching your body for you, usually at a special facility. The professionals follow a stretching program tailored to each individual and their personal goals.

More about assisted stretching

The practice has gained popularity during the pandemic as more people seek ways to improve their overall health. According to CNN, the Stretchlab assisted stretching company had 72 locations prior to the pandemic and now operates more than 150 studios across the United States, with over 600 franchises in development. The company’s customers range in age from four to over 90 and all come with different goals, whether they’re sedentary, professional athletes, or needing treatment for movement disorders and neuromuscular diseases. “People are starting to see stretching as the modality that fits with health and wellness, much like physical therapy or chiropractic care,” Verdine Baker, president of StretchLab, told CNN.

Image courtesy of Dane Wetton/Unsplash

Experts in the field say that assisted stretching has several benefits, including increasing flexibility, blood flow, and range of motion. It can also help relieve pain and stiffness, improve core strength and posture, reduce the risk of injury, and even reduce stress levels. Despite these benefits, there is still some confusion as to whether assisted stretching is better than stretching alone. Jeff Brannigan, co-founder and program director of Stretch*d, a New York City-based assisted stretching company, told CNN, “People tend not to stretch, or they tend to stretch in the wrong direction,” he said . “They tend to hold positions for too long or force themselves into positions they are unprepared for, which can have detrimental effects on the body.”

There are several studies that have compared the benefits of assisted stretching versus unassisted stretching. A pilot study of the effects of assisted stretching programs in older adults found that it helped increase their range of motion, mobility and functional strength, but these results are compared to a control group who attended classes with little physical activity rather than on their own to stretch. Another study conducted by researchers at Illinois State University observed the benefits of a specific stretching technique and found that it improved hamstring flexibility, whether assisted or performed independently.

Though the jury is still out on how much better assisted stretching is for you than unassisted stretching, Baker told CNN he believes it’s here to stay, adding that it’s helped him, past four Knee surgery to get back on your feet. He also noticed that his clients rave about the benefits of assisted stretching. “They tell us how it helps them with their mobility, flexibility and range of motion, which then allows them to do the things that make them happy like hiking or golf,” he told CNN. “If something helps people do the things they love to do, it’s an easy choice.”

This story first appeared on www.marthastewart.com

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