Watch a child waking up and you will see that they spend several moments stretching out their limbs. This kind of full-body morning stretch awakens your muscles and is good for you. As we get older and busier however, many of us lose that natural healthy childhood habit. The good news is that your massage therapist can use assisted stretching techniques to help you regain some of your younger flexibility.
Ever wondered what is happening when you bend down to touch your toes and feel all that tension down the back of your hamstring and buttock muscles? Your leg muscles comprise a complicated network of intertwined fluid-filled fibres. These are packed close together and enclosed by a web of flexible collagen tissue. The tension you feel when you stretch can come from knots in the collagen mesh, springy titin protein in muscle fibers or pressure against the fluid in your muscle fibres.
As you stretch down towards your toes, the collagen tissue is extended and becomes narrower. The further it narrows, the more it begins to squeeze against the fluid inside each muscle fibre.
The tension you feel in your hamstring or gluteus maximus begins when the collagen mesh reaches its maximum elasticity and starts pressing against the fluid in your fibres.
Thankfully, whatever your age, with some gentle coercion over a few weeks, your muscles should become flexible enough to allow you to easily touch your toes without any discomfort. One of the ways you can achieve this is through massage therapy stretching techniques, applied regularly over a short period of time.
Whilst you are asleep, your body can become stiff from the lack of movement over several hours. Tension begins to build in your muscles fibres from knots in the muscle collagen as well as fluid beginning to gather in one place.
Stretching your muscles, whether through receiving a massage or yourself, helps to move muscle fibre fluid back towards its normal positions. Tightness in muscles is released and fibres realigned.
Your blood circulation is also improved. Whilst you sleep, your heart pumps a little slower. Getting a massage in the morning, and spending a few minutes stretching, gets the blood flowing faster again.
Stretching is also a great way to relieve certain types of nerve related pain, such as sciatica. As your muscles begin to relax, they exert less pressure on the sciatica nerve and the pain is consequentially reduced almost immediately. The photo above is a common stretch used to reducing tension in the buttock muscles that often causes sciatica pain.
From ballistic to passive, there are many different types of stretching techniques that are used in massage therapy. You can also perform many of them at home on yourself, in between massage sessions.
If you have been suffering from lots of knots and tightness in your muscles, a deep tissue massage is an excellent choice of treatment to help relieve the pain. Spending 10 minutes stretching before receiving your massage can be very beneficial in this instance. By relaxing your muscles by the time your therapist arrives, your body will be able to receive a more intense deep tissue massage during the booked period.
On the other hand, if you want some assisted stretching, then try a Thai Combo massage for some gentle help in getting your muscles working again and improving flexibility.
If you have not been stretching regularly, it is important to begin any therapy to improve elasticity in a steady manner. Small steps will lead to big results over time. Never over-exert your muscles during a stretch, as you will risk injury rather than force them to become more elasticated.
The next time you wake up and lean over to immediately grab your phone to read messages, consider moving a little further away for just a few minutes to do five minutes of stretching first. Unless of course you are grabbing your phone to book a therapeutic massage at home for some assistance!