The benefits of flexibility for health and sporting performance is a contentious topic both in the mainstream media and academic literature. However, improving flexibility is a very popular past-time with the rise of Yoga and Pilates being evidence of this.
For optimal performance you need to have enough flexibility to complete your sport and go about your everyday activities. Therefore, everyone will require varying degrees of flexibility. It is also probably true that being too flexible may actually increase injury risk and impair performance.
The most common way of increasing your flexibility is through static stretches. Such as in the picture below……
For these stretches to be most effective, research suggests they should be held for between 30-60 seconds, repeated 2-4 times and performed daily. They should also be completed when muscles are warm so for example at the end of a workout or after a hot bath.
Interestingly, if stretches are carried out before exercise, they have been shown to actually result in a reduction in muscle force, power and balance, with these effects lasting up-to 2 hours. So warm-ups are not the time to try & improve your flexibility; rather move your joints & muscles through their current range of motion.
There are a whole host of factors that contribute to your flexibility, such as:
- Muscle length
- Muscle tone
- Joint mobility
- Nerve mobility
- Fascial mobility
If any one of these are limiting movement it may present as stiffness. It can be hard for you to determine which is the causative factor so if unsure why not make an appointment with us today.
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Is that the sound of the POLICE?
After an acute injury, early management to ensure optimal outcome should follow a few simple principles – just think POLICE.
P – Protect
OL – Optimally Load
I – Ice
C – Compress
What this means is largely based on the severity of the injury but essentially protect the injury from further damage. Think using crutches when you injure your leg or a sling when you injure your arm.
Often following an acute injury, a little bit of rest is important. However, you may feel compelled to rest your injured body part for longer than is actually necessary. This can lead to negative consequences such as reduced muscle strength and stiffness, which can delay your return to normal function.
Therefore, optimal loading is now recommended following an injury. Not only does this reduce negative effects of ‘complete rest’ but it can also help stimulate the healing process. What optimal loading looks like will be dependent on the injury.
Icing following an injury may help to manage the swelling around the injury and also reduce associated pain levels.
Compression may help to reduce swelling and inflammation. To provide compression an elasticated bandage such as a tubigrip may be used and should be applied down from the injured body part and extend above the site of injury.
Elevation helps to reduce swelling. The elevated body-part should be above the level of the heart to maximise its beneficial effects.
As always if in doubt get it checked out and a physiotherapist will be able to guide you through the POLICE principle and how it best applies to you.