Stretching vs Releases

Ever had a tight muscle that doesn’t seem to budge no matter how many stretches you do? It’s so common at Barefoot to have new clients tell us ” I stretch my ** tight muscle ** all the time and it still feels super tight” . . . so why is this happening?

Alot of tight muscles often have palpable “knots” and “triggers” in them. These are specific areas of contracted muscle within the entire muscle belly. To target these specific “hard or ropey” spots it is more effective to perform muscle releases (using a ball, pocket physio, foam roller, dry needling or trigger point massage) rather than doing a stretch. When you “muscle release” this allows for sustained pressure on a trigger point, at a specific angle held for around 90 seconds for 2-3 different spots per muscle group.

Muscle Releases

Muscle releases can still be performed if your muscle is tight due to nerve irritation, however stretching should definitely be avoided. It is difficult to know whether you have nerve irritation or not until it is tested by a qualified Physiotherapist. If you have consistently stretched a muscle correctly for >3 days and you’ve had no change, then you’ve tried doing muscle releases and there is still no change, then it is likely that there could be nerve involvement. Luckily at Barefoot this is something we test and specialise in, so if you need to get this checked click here to book an appointment.

Stretching can be effective if you have an entire muscle group that is notably tight and is not originating from nerve irritation. If this is the case, it is important to hold your stretches for a minimum of 60 seconds each using the correct technique to have the desired effect. If you do not know the correct technique, a Physiotherapist can help teach you.

So how will this help your muscles & body?

  1. Your muscles will feel “good” when relaxed at rest.
  2. Your injuries will be prevented
  3. Allows you to maintain full motion of your joints
  4. Allows full strength by having full range of motion
  5. Your recovery will be quicker after exercise!
  6. Your muscle soreness will be reduced
  7. Happy muscles & joints = happy nerves!
  8. Sports performance will be improved
  9. A reduction in headaches
  10. To stop us feeling old & creaky!
When and How?

Practicing muscle releases or stretches everyday is ideal. We recommend you set aside a minimum of 10 minutes a day to work on the areas that make the biggest difference to your body.  If you have a few areas to work on, you have had a big day at work or you are exercising at a high level, we would recommend 20-30 mins. If you aren’t sure what areas need to be released in your body to help you perform better, a Barefoot Physiotherapist will do a head-to-toe assessment to work out where you need to focus on for your body.It is normal to feel some discomfort during these releases and it should stop as soon as you release the pressure. If it doesn’t, please notify your Physiotherapist to find out why. Remember to breathe while you do your releases! Breathing in & out deeply will help relax the muscle contraction and speed up the releasing effect.

Be aware of your position while you stretch/release. Our brain always likes to take the easy option, so it will sometimes sub-consciously put us in the position where we get the least resistance. This doesn’t help us achieve the flexibility we are after. Posture and technique are key to sustaining a good stretch on a muscle. Want to know more? Check out the rest of our post here.

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