If you were injured during a sporting event or practice, you may seek out a physical therapist or doctor for help. One person who you may want to seek out during recovery is a massage therapist. One service that these therapists can offer is assisted stretching therapy. Stretching can release tension, break up scar tissue, improve flexibility, and prevent future injuries. It may be hard to properly and safely stretch the injured area on your own, so a massage therapist can help. One type of stretch a therapist can help you with is proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). Read on to learn more about this type of stretch, how it differs from other methods, and how it can help you heal.
What are dynamic, static, and passive stretches?
Dynamic stretching is ideal for warm-ups before you play a sport or exercise. Dynamic stretches can include things like lunges, high knees, etc. and are intended to get the blood flowing to your muscles.
Static stretching is where you sit and hold a position for an extended period of time. Static stretching is ideal for cooldowns after sports practice or a workout routine since your muscles are already warm.
Passive stretching is where you try to completely relax and let gravity or a mechanical aid, like a towel or band, pull the muscle. You don't make any contribution to forcing the range of motion. Passive stretching is great if you are feeling muscle tightness or soreness.
How does PNF stretching differ from other methods?
During PNF, you alter between contracting and relaxing antagonist muscles. An antagonist muscle group is a muscle group that opposes the action of another. For instance, if you flex your biceps, then your triceps relax, and vice versa. If you contract your quadriceps, then your hamstrings relax and vice versa.
If you are stretching your quads/hamstrings, for instance, your massage therapist can push against one of your legs while you push back against him or her. Then the therapist will have you relax and push your leg down farther into the stretch; you'll then repeat the process of contracting and relaxing.
How does it help you heal from sports injuries?
People playing sports are often injured because one muscle group is stronger than another, or they have a better range of motion than the antagonist muscle group. Muscle imbalances can make it easier for you to develop injuries. And muscle group imbalances can cause poor posture and affect your form during certain activities. PNF stretching helps you balance opposing muscle groups and get into deeper stretches for improved range of motion. More studies need to be done on all the effects of PNF stretching, but one study found that if performed consistently, PNF stretching can improve range of motion and increase athletic performance.
Because you don't want to make your injury worse, it's important to do these types of stretches with a professional like a massage therapist. Reach out to a therapist in your area for more information on assisted stretching.