“DIY or Do-It-Yourself” is the common term used for those who wish to try their own hand at fixing something, usually a house project. There are YouTube videos, blogs, and endless Pinterest articles on just about anything to help guide you through the process. When it comes to “fixing” your body, there is also an abundant amount of information out there in which to educate us. Muscle tightness can be the primary, or a contributing factor, to many body pains. Muscles are certainly not the only cause of pains though, and please consult a professional if you find yourself in continuous pain. Just like in a home improvement project, you will try to do what you can safely, but if you are stumped or get into trouble, you call for an expert to help. The same is with the body! With that said, here are some of the most common muscles to stretch for various body aches and pain:
1. Low back pain: Low back pain is so prevalent that you are likely to experience some degree of it in your life. Common muscles to stretch to address low back strain include the hip flexor aka psoas muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, iliotibial band and piriformis. Lesser-known muscles, which are often tight and can contribute to low back pain, include the quadratus lumborum and gastrocnemius or calf muscles.
2. Neck or Shoulder pains: There are a number of muscles that cross the neck and into the shoulder. Often these two joints are treated even when a patient comes in with a diagnosis of either neck or shoulder pain. The most common muscles for this region include the pectoralis major and minor muscles, scalenes, upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid, and the triceps muscles. Lesser-known muscles, which influence the shoulder complex include the serratus anterior and the bicep muscles.
3. Ankle or Foot pains: There are a number of smaller muscles, which traverse past your ankle to control the movement of your foot and toes. The common muscles that are stretched for general ankle and foot pains include the gastrocnemius and soleus, which are the two muscles that comprise the calf muscle, along with toe flexor and extensor muscles. Other muscles to consider if you have ankle or foot pains include the anterior tibialis, iliotibial band, quadriceps and the hamstring muscles.
4. Knee pain: The knees often take the brunt of compensating for lack of movement from above at the low back & below at the ankle and foot joints. Because of this relationship, make sure to also stretch the back and ankle muscles. Common muscles to stretch if you have knee pain include the quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius and soleus muscles. Lessor known but important muscles to consider stretching also include the iliotibial band, hip flexor and hip adductor muscles.
5. Wrist or hand pains: Similar to the ankle and foot, there are quite a number of smaller muscles that allow for the great range & dexterity of our fingers. Common muscles to stretch would be the wrist flexor and extensor muscles. Lessor-known muscles include the supinator, biceps, pectoralis muscles as well as scalenes and upper trapezius muscles.
Remember, not all muscles listed above should be stretched. If during an evaluation by a trained professional, an achy muscle is found to excessively lengthened, then further stretching this muscle would not be advised. Often there is an imbalance between muscle counterparts where the agonist muscle is tight but the antagonist muscle is stretched. An example of this scenario is seen commonly in the shoulder complex where the pectoral or chest muscles are tight and the opposing back scapular muscles are stretched out and weak. In this case, you would stretch the pectoral muscles and strengthen the scapular muscles. If you would like guidance on which muscles to stretch for your particular body ache, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.