Simple Stretches to Reduce Injury
So much of what we do as physiotherapists is working with our patients to fix their specific problem (or problems!) This ranges from rehabilitating after an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) reconstruction, sorting out a kinked neck after a bad nights sleep, all the way to managing Plantar Fasciitis. The list is honestly endless!
Luckily, some common stretches are a bit more general that can be for those niggling little tight areas that are troubling you, but not enough to seek out a physiotherapy appointment.
A great rule of thumb is if something musculoskeletal is bothering you for more than 4–7 days (whether this is associated with exercise or not), then you should get it checked out. Often these sort of problems manifest from there and lead to further issues, often a full-blown injury.
In that little 4–7 day window though, try one of the following stretches that might be appropriate for you. It might just be possible to manage the problem without our help. If any of the “caution” markers apply to you for any of these stretches, you should see a physio, and it is not appropriate to follow a generalised routine like the one outlined.
ROLLING YOUR FOOT WITH A FOOTEEZ
Okay so this isn’t technically a stretch but rolling out the bottom of your feet feels great and can help ease general foot and calf/leg soreness. If you don’t have a Footeez, then try a tennis ball or whatever your heart desires. Great for foot pain, arch discomfort, calf pain, Achilles niggle and back of leg tightness. Roll 1–2 minutes for each foot, 1–2 times per day maximum.
Caution: rolling too hard, rolling a foot that is more than a 4/10 pain or previous history of Plantar Fasciitis.
LUMBAR LOCK ROTATION
Because your hips and knees are flexed, all the movement happens at the THORACIC part of your spine, which is primarily responsible for rotation through our spine. So many of us are commonly tight in this area because in this modern society - we simply don’t rotate enough! It’s not ideal to go from sitting and not rotating to rotating in the gym or any other facet of your life, so this one fills the gap! Great for: neck pain, mid-back tightness, lower back pain, stiff feeling through sternum/rib/abdominal area, prolonged sitting/office workers and poor posture. Complete 2-4 sets of 10 repetitions on each side, at least once per day. Great to do before activity.
Caution: if there is nerve pain in the arms and legs associated with your symptoms, you are in more than 4/10 pain, you have a previous spine pathology, or you get pain in your knees or hip when you adopt the position.
An excellent goal is to be able to hold a deep squat position for 60 seconds with your heels flat on the floor, chest nice and proud. This one is tough, and most of us struggle to get into this position. It can tell us a lot about how mobile we are, not only through our ankles but also our knees and hips. Interestingly, many cultures that spend more time in a deep squat position are much less likely to experience knee, ankle and hip problems throughout their life! Great for stiff ankle joints those or who have difficulty getting deep into a squat position.
Caution: any pain in this position is a marker that something could be going on that requires a physiotherapist’s assistance, previous knee injury and/or surgery, previous ankle injury and/or surgery.
PIGEON /HALF KNEE HOLD
These stretches are great for tightness through the hips and those who work in an offices/sit long periods. Perform this for 2 sets of 30-60 seconds each side.
Caution: Interestingly, a number of the conditions these stretches are GOOD for, can also be problematic. The pigeon and half knee hold can be super effective at reducing tension in the hips which can affect downstream to the knee (patellofermoral pain, patellofemoral syndrome) and upstream to the lower back, so can be great for lower back pain! Just be careful and cautious, and in most cases if your pain is low level, then these should be helpful for you.
Born and raised in Tamworth, multiple knee injuries as a sport-loving country kid led Tom down the path of Physiotherapy. Soon after graduating, Tom started NextGen Physio and along with his amazing team of therapists, loves the excitement and challenge of helping athletes, weekend warriors and everyone in-between be pain and injury-free! For more information visit www.nextgenphysiotherapy.com.au/blog