• Tiffany Chen

The Dangers of Overstretching


From needles to gravity-defying splits, feats of flexibility are just so breathtaking and stunning. Watching dancers and gymnastics perform, it’s inevitable to wish for that flexibility and want to do oversplits like the athletes you see on Instagram and Youtube. However, done improperly, stretching can pose various risks to your health and safety.


Overstretching occurs when you push your muscles beyond the normal limit. Muscles that are overstretched appear lax instead of toned, can cause joints to become hyperextended, and result in serious injury. Over time, it can create a host of problems ranging from micro-tears in tissues to full tears in tendons or ligaments.[1]


Healthy stretching v.s. Overstretching



Contrary to popular belief, stretching shouldn’t be painful. Instead, you should feel a slight pull in the muscle. However, if that muscle part starts to feel a sharp pain, then you are over stretching and need to stop. Another way to detect it is if you feel sore the next day after you’ve stretched. If you do feel sore, you can lower all intensities of your exercises. [2]


It also isn't necessary or advised to hold stretches for extended periods of time. 45 seconds to 3 minutes is advised - any longer can cause laxity in your joints and long-term problems. [3]


Dangers and Risks of Overstretching



  • It can loosen ligaments that secure your hips and knees, which won’t bounce back in shape once overstretched [3]

  • Extreme static stretches can lead to joint destabilization in hypermobile people. [3]

  • When muscles become too loose, it allows the joint to move freely. Then, the increase range of motions can put stress on the joints, which are not supported by the muscle, which can cause greater risk of injuries.[4]

  • Damaging a muscle will have awful effects on an athlete’s performance physically and internally. The athlete will lose their smooth movements and lower reaction time, which their body will try to compensate by using up more energy. [4]


How to Prevent Overstretching



  • Stay hydrated

  • Do a dynamic warmup prior to stretching

  • Use proper gear and footwear

  • Stop immediately if you sense a sharp pain

  • Do not engage in extreme stretching exercises, such as oversplits


How to Treat Overstretching



Use the RICE method.[6]


Rest: Give your body up to 2 days of rest and it will naturally repair injuries. Avoid putting on too much weight on your injured body part.


Ice: helps reduce and calm down inflammation. You can apply an ice pack covered with a light towel for about 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours for the first 24-48 hours as soon as you have

your injury.


Compression: wrap the affected areas with badges or you can use an affordable compression sleeve (which you can buy from amazon) Make sure it’s not too tight so that blood can flow. Using the compression method allows the area to prevent swelling.


Elevation: raising your sore body part above your chest level reduces pain, throbbing, and swelling.


If the RICE method didn’t work or if you don’t see any improvements, contact your doctor.


Conclusion


The best way to avoid overstretching is to just listen to your body. If your body can’t take it anymore, just stop. Why? As Hina Hashimi* says, “Your body is your best guide. It constantly tells you, in the form of pain or sensations, what’s working for you and what’s not.” Good luck with your stretching!



*Hashimi is a Happiness coach, International speaker, and Clinical psychologist. She’s the author of the book, Your Life A Practical Guide To Happiness and Peace and Fulfillment. (2014)




Citations:

[1]Is it possible to overstretch?

[2] How can you tell if you overstretch

[3]Extreme stretching; the risks of sitting oversplits

[4] Dangers of overstretching

[5]The benefits of dynamic stretching and How to get started

[6] RICE method for injuries


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