The real important of flexibility (and it’s not what you think!)

Joint flexibility vs. muscle flexibility

An important, but often ignored, component of health and fitness is flexibility. We are told to stretch before and/or after exercise. If we have an injured tendon or muscle we are often told to stretch it out. Being flexible is usually seen as a hallmark of health, and super-flexible yoga gurus leave us feeling envious and inadequate.

But how important is flexibility, and is stretching really important?

Firstly, flexibility shouldn’t be seen as a marker for general health or fitness. As we age we become less flexible. Flexibility naturally varies from person to person and much of this variation is due to genetics. You don’t have to be able to touch your toes (and nor should you try, if you’ve read some of the other blogs).

Some people are naturally hyperflexible. In extreme cases it can be caused by an underlying condition of the connective tissue in the body, but more often is simply a natural variation. It doesn’t have to cause problems however it can mean that if part of the spine becomes restricted in its movement then the other very flexible parts of the spine can ‘hide’ the problem – i.e. ‘I’m very flexible but by back feels stuck’. A chiropractic assessment will locate the restricted areas of the spine.

On the other hand many of us feel constantly stiff or immobile. No amount of stretching or massage seems to help. The key here is that, while muscles may be tight, it is not the muscle inflexibility that is the problem, it is joint stiffness. Joint movement can become restricted through poor posture, bending and lifting, sleeping in an awkward position – in other words it’s pretty common.

If you’re thinking, ‘I’ve probably got arthritis, it’s too late’, then don’t! Joint flexibility and comfort can always be improved. Even if you can’t turn you’re head to 90 degrees, it’s still beneficial to improve range of motion to as far as is possible and then to maintain the improvement. Use it or lose it.

The joints of the body are suppose to move, to their full extent, every day. That’s their job. So when you are considering stretching, then consider the joints, not just the muscles. For example, do you turn your head fully left and right every day? Do you tilt your head left and right? Or is it only when you go to reverse the car that you notice that your neck suddenly feels stiff and restricted?

And have you noticed that after a rest cats and dogs always stretch out their legs and spine? Maybe they’re on to something that we’ve forgotten?

Maintaining joint flexibility will help to maintain joint comfort and joint health. If a joint feels ‘stuck’ and it won’t improve then a chiropractic assessment will find it and free it and fix it.