As we age, we are not as flexible as we were when younger. Have you ever wondered why? With increasing age, the soft tissue surrounding our ligaments and muscles thickens, limiting the flexibility or range of motion within the joint. Therefore, for many people, one of the reasons to visit a chiropractor is to help overcome these challenges.
Cartilage, which aids in connecting the joints, also decreases when we grow old. However, age may not be taken as an excuse to not improve flexibility. The importance of flexibility is significant in an individual’s life. This is because improving flexibility means improving health and wellness, such as decreasing chronic pains.
Are you still wondering if it is possible to become flexible as we age? The answer is YES! This article provides an in-depth overview and suggested tips to enhance flexibility with age, and a range of chiropractic treatments available.
Defining Flexibility: Why Do We Lose Flexibility As We Age?
Flexibility is defined as “the ability of a joint or series of joints to move through an unrestricted, pain-free range of motion.” According to UC Davis Health, flexibility ranges vastly from people to people of different ages; minimum ranges are important to maintaining overall joint and body health. As we become old, our body tends to break down. The skin loses its elasticity, muscle tone, and bone density. In addition to that, the water content in the tendons also tends to decrease, due to which tendons become stiffer. This contributes to the overall decline of flexibility in individuals.
With age, the most affected joints which usually face a substantial reduction in flexibility are shoulders, hips, spine, and knees. This can subsequently lead to chronic pains and aches.
Effects of Inflexibility
Being inflexible can adversely impact your body in three ways:
- To maintain the health of cartilage and other joints in the body, your joints require movement via a full range of motion. This helps in increasing blood and nutrient supply to the joint structures with an increased quantity of synovial joint fluid. If the joints become inflexible, blood flow decreases, and the effect is more noticeable in knees and hips as they are the weight-bearing joints.
- Reduced flexibility in individuals can also cause abnormal stress on tissues and structures. For example, tendonitis in the knee can be related to the stiffness of calves.
- Muscles that are inflexible tend to tire quickly, which subsequently causes the opposing muscles to work harder. There is fatigue in muscles, which can lead to chronic muscle pain and muscular injuries. Besides, it also adversely affects the ability of muscles to protect joints from severe injuries.
Flexibility Vs. Mobility: What Is The Difference?
When talking about fitness, flexibility and mobility are the two words which are used interchangeably quite often. Although they both affect the movements in the body, they are not exactly the same.
What are Mobility and Flexibility?
Mobility refers to how a joint moves through its usual range of motion. Depending on the type of joint, the range of motion varies. For example, the ball and socket joint in your shoulder help your arms to move up and down and rotate inwards and outwards. For better mobility, you need a lot of muscle strength and stability in addition to flexibility.
Flexibility, on the other hand, is the muscle’s ability to stretch temporarily. Now, think of your muscle as an elastic band. The more flexible it is, the more easily it can stretch. Although flexibility plays an essential role in mobility, they both are not the same thing. Muscles that are flexible help improve joint movements, which is why they are believed to be a vital component of mobility. If the muscles and tissues surrounding the joint are extremely tight, it is difficult to move them. Tighter muscles can pull on a joint, causing it to become unstable and misaligned.
Stretching: Improving Mobility and Flexibility
Flexibility and mobility are considered to be necessary. In our daily lives, we do many things, ranging from reaching out for a can on the top shelf of a grocery store to quickly turning around to catch a ball being thrown towards us. The range of motion is compromised if your muscles and joints are sore, and the risk of injuries also increases when motion is compromised.
Stretching offers a simple way to enhance flexibility and mobility in your body. You might think of hurting as something that athletes or gymnasts only perform. But this is not true; in fact, we all need to stretch to protect our body’s mobility and independence.
Importance of Stretching
Stretching helps in keeping your muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. Without flexibility, our muscles become inflexible, tight, and short, and when you use them for any activity, they become weak and cannot extend. This puts your body at a higher risk of muscle damage, joint pain and strains.
With a body full of muscles, the idea of stretching on a daily basis may seem to be overwhelming. According to David Nolan, a Physical Therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, you do not have to stretch every muscle in the body. According to him, the areas critical to mobility are lower parts of the body, such as calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors in the pelvis.
Benefits of Stretching
Stretching yields substantial benefits for the body, which can subsequently help in improving your muscles and joint movements. Let’s have a look at these advantages:
With the practice of stretching on an everyday basis, you eventually develop strength and flexibility in your body. Once you have done that, you will be able to withstand more physical stress. All the body muscle imbalances will be eliminated, consequently, reducing the chance of getting an injury from physical exercises. To correct the muscles’ balance, it is required that you stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the underactive muscles.
Once you have worked on opening and lengthening muscles, your body will feel better overall. When muscles have become loose and less tensed, you will less likely feel any pain. Moreover, regardless of the type of exercise, you will experience fewer muscle cramps.
Enhanced Posture and balance
Improvement in posture and balance is one of the significant benefits of stretching. When an individual focuses on enhancing the flexibility of their muscles, their posture is most likely to enhance. Working out consistently allows the body to improve any imbalances in the muscles and align properly. Moreover, it will become easier for you to sit in any way and anywhere with an increased range of motion. For example, Yoga and Cardio has proved to show improvement in body balance.
Increased Blood Flow to Muscles
Stretching on a regular basis helps you enhance blood circulation. Increased blood circulation enhances blood flow to muscles, decreasing the recovery time and soreness in muscles.
For a lot of people, stretching is something that makes them feel good. And things that make people happy helps in reducing chronic stress and bring us closer to a state of calmness. Stretching combined with deep breathing is relaxing for the mind, and every time you take a deep breath, you are letting go of a stressor in life. Therefore, stretching is an intentional way of giving mental health a positive boost.
Types of Stretching
Since stretching the muscles can help in reducing the risk of injuries by enhancing flexibility and range of motions, it must be incorporated into your daily exercise routine. There are four different types of stretching, and the best thing is that you can do most of the:
Active stretching is also known as static-active stretching. This technique focuses especially on utilizing the muscles within the targeted group. For example, stretching the ankle back and forth is going to use calf muscles as toes are being raised towards the shin. With active stretching, muscles are performing opposing functions; for example, one muscle is being lengthened, and the other is being contracted.
Passive stretching is also a popular form of stretching that helps in enhancing body balance and flexibility, for example, Yoga. The target muscle is lengthened as a particular force reaches the outer limits of your motion’s range.
Dynamic stretching is classified as lively stretches that rely on momentum to flow through repeated movements. For example, while sitting, you feel tired and stretch your hamstrings to kick through its range of motion. With each pass, a gradual progression in height is accomplished.
Proprioceptive (PNF) Stretching
PNF stretching refers to a set of techniques that consists of table stretching with the help of a certified trainer. It helps in the restoration of injured or weak muscles. This is because, during this training, resistance is provided while keeping everything in place. As the contraction is released, the position is held for 20 to 30 seconds and another 35 to 30 seconds for the muscle to relax.
This kind of stretching is normally used for athletic drills and makes use of repetitive bouncing movements to stretch the muscle group that is being targeted. This type of stretching can be safely performed if done from low-velocity to high velocity and preceded by static stretching.
Myofascial Release Therapy
Myofascial release is a type of physical therapy that releases tightness and pain. Through the use of a foam or any other similar object, the therapy helps in relieving tension and enhances flexibility in the fascia. Fascia is a network of connective tissues that are densely woven and help keep all the body compartments together.
This technique consists of continuous back and forth movements and is performed over 2 to 6 inches for almost 30 to 60 seconds. The pain tolerance of the person will tell the pressure applied to the targeted area.
A Guide to Stretching Routine: Best Exercises for Better Flexibility
Completing a daily stretching routine can prove to be beneficial for your health. It can positively impact a person’s physical and mental well-being. Your daily routine can incorporate both static and dynamic stretches or either one of them, depending on the stamina.
Initially, it might feel uncomfortable at first, but it is not at all painful. This section is going to cover a full body daily stretch routine, stretching exercises for hip flexibility, athletes, and runners.
Full Body Daily Stretching Routine
Including an exercise routine in your daily schedule might seem daunting, particularly for those who already have a busy schedule. However, it only requires the individual to set aside 15 to 20 minutes. The majority of the people choose morning time for their exercise. Some of the recommended stretches for the full-body are:
Stand straight with your arms loose and feet shoulder-width apart.
Lower the chin towards the chest
Roll your head gently in a clockwise motion for one rotation which will be about 7 to 8 seconds
Take rest for 5 seconds and repeat the same in an anticlockwise direction.
Repeat neck roll stretch three times
Standing Hip Rotation
Place your hands on the hips while standing with the feet shoulder-width apart.
Move the hip forward slowly and rotate it three times in a clockwise direction.
Bring your hip back to the center and then repeat the same movement in an anticlockwise direction.
Stand up straight with your arms lose.
Slowly raise your shoulders without bending your arms. Roll your raised shoulders back in a circular motion
Roll the shoulders backward five times and then reverse the movement in a forward direction.
Repeat the process twice
Child’s pose is a famous yoga position, which is a relaxing way to end your stretching routine.
Kneel with the toes pointed towards the back in a way that the tops of your feet lie flat on the ground.
Sit back against the heels.
Push your hip back and lower your chest towards the floor and slide your arms forward.
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat it thrice.
Give 10 seconds rest between each stretch.
Stretching Exercises for Hip Flexibility
One of the major ways to avoid painful hip conditions is maintaining hip flexibility. Below are some of the exercises that can help with improving flexibility in the hips.
Lie flat on your back with legs straightened
Bend the left leg and place hands just below the knee while keeping the right leg straight on the ground
Slowly pull the left leg towards the chest and hold for 10 seconds
Switch between the legs alternatively and repeat the sequence 4 to 5 times depending on your strength
Standing Iliotibial (IT) Band Stretch
To begin this stretch, stand in an upright position
Cross left leg behind the right leg and lift the left arm above the head
Gently lean your upper body towards the right. Make sure you don’t move forward or twist yourself.
Hold the pose for 30 seconds and repeat the same on the left side as well
Repeat 3 times. Although this stretch position is challenging to balance, you can use the wall as a support.
Stretching Exercises for Runners and Athletes
For runners and athletes, a lot of energy is required to perform. If they do not stretch before running or performing any sports, there is a high chance that they can injure their muscles. It is also essential for them to stretch after exercising or running. Some of the useful stretching exercises for runners and athletes include:
Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
Keeping the face of both feet forward, take a big step to the left.
Hold the position for 10 seconds and return to the starting position.
Take a rest for 10 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
Repeat the entire exercise thrice
Stand up straight and bring the left arm across the front of the body in a way that it extends past the right shoulder.
Bend your right arm to hold the left arm and bring it towards the chest. Make sure you hold the arm and not the elbow joint.
Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat with the other arm.
Repeat the process thrice
Note: Always try to be careful and cautious about not locking the joints while stretching. Doing so can cause hyperextension, extending the joints beyond their normal limits, consequently increasing the risk of injury. If you think that the stretch is painful, do not force movement and take a rest to avoid any sprain.
Chiropractic Adjustments is a type of treatment in which trained specialists and certified professionals use their hands or a small instrument to apply a small yet sudden force to a spinal joint. The major objective of this treatment is to enhance spinal motion and improvise the body’s physical function. This procedure is performed to treat neck pain, lower back pains, and headaches.
Do Chiropractic Treatments Help With Flexibility?
Chiropractors aim at improving your flexibility in an entirely natural manner without the use of any medicine. It also avoids using products that promise to deliver miraculous results. The benefits of chiropractic with respect to flexibility are proven scientifically.
Research published in The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics included 105 patients and concluded that chiropractic adjustments help increase the range of motion in participants. This study comprises three types of adjustments: no adjustments, placebo adjustments, and actual adjustments. The result of the study reflected significant improvements in the range of motion of patients who received actual adjustment as compared to others.
What does a chiropractor do to improve flexibility?
To improve flexibility, chiropractor care consists of spinal adjustments and manipulation of other parts of the body in order to adjust the bones, joints, and muscles. Additionally, it also relieves pain and restores the range of motion. It entirely depends on the chiropractor how he wants to treat the problem. These adjustments can be performed manually as well as with the help of different techniques like trigger point therapy.
Test Your Flexibility Before Getting Chiropractic Care
To determine whether you need chiropractic care or not, the following are some test exercises that you can perform to help move your neck in different motions.
Extension: Tilt the head back at a 60 to 80-degree angle to look at the ceiling.
Flexion: Move your head forward towards the chest and try to touch it with your chin. Aim for a 40 degree to 60-degree angle.
Rotation: Making sure that the chin is in line with the shoulders. Turn your head towards the left and then right.
Lateral Bending: Bend your head to bring your right ear to touch the right shoulder or left ear to touch the left shoulder.
Note: If you feel like that while performing these tasks, your neck is stiff and is not able to move, do not force it. Making movements beyond the range of motion can lead to injury.
Flexibility is a range of motion in joints or their ability to move effectively through a complete range of motion. Flexibility training is known as stretching that helps in lengthening and loosening muscles and the connective tissues to enhance flexibility. A flexible body is less prone to injuries, has an improved posture, and corrects muscle imbalance. Moreover, it also improves the performance of athletes and reduces pain in joints. This article sums up the entire notion of flexibility, stretching, and the need for chiropractic adjustments.
Let us know in the comments below if you have any personal tips to share regarding flexibility!