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Stretches to Reduce Muscle Inflammation

By Greg Cooper, D.C.

Most cases of muscle inflammation result from overuse, either due to starting a new activity or doing an increased amount of a familiar activity. Several types of stretches can help you reduce inflammation and stiffness. If muscle soreness is persistent, chronic and accompanied by weakness, you should have it evaluated and treated by your doctor.

Benefits of Stretching for Inflammation

When you are using your muscles, a small amount of damage occurs in the fibers of the muscle. The more intense the exercise, the more damage occurs. Inflammation develops as your body does the necessary repairs to the muscles. If you are staying sore after exercise, you may not be taking enough time between vigorous workouts. Only return to intense exercise after the soreness and inflammation are gone. Stretching helps to increase blood flow and nutrition, reducing soreness and speeding recovery.

Static Stretches

A static stretch is one done with a held position. A good example would be reaching down to touch your toes. Reaching as far toward your toes as you can, hold that position for 30 to 45 seconds to allow the muscle spindle to release and lengthen. Apply this type of stretch to your inflamed muscle by stretching it out and holding it for the prescribed time. This type of stretch is also good for reducing stiffness.

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Ballistic Stretches

If you are quickly repeating the stretch position and releasing it, you are doing ballistic stretching. An example of this stretch would be alternating toe touches. Reach down with your right hand toward your left foot, then straighten back up. Next, reach down with your left hand toward your right foot and then return to standing. This form of stretching stimulates blood flow and helps to reduce both soreness and stiffness.

PNF or CRAC Stretches

A third type of stretching is the proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation or PNF, and the contract-relax-antagonist-contract or CRAC. With these stretches, you start by doing an isometric contraction of the muscle for at least 20 seconds, followed by a stretch. The stretch usually requires a partner or therapist to assist you. This form of stretching helps inflammation because it increases circulation. It also creates increases in flexibility greater than other forms of stretching.

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