I think there is a general perception that if some area of your body feels tight, then you should simply just stretch it out. I try to educate my clients that in some cases this might a good idea, but in others it definitely wouldn’t be, and that the key question to ask is “why does this muscle or area feel tight in the first place?”
A common example is with the upper trapezius muscle which people often refer to as the top of their shoulders. If this area always feels tight, then of course it might feel lovely to have a massage, but in the long-term you want to find out why it feels so tight in the first place. Is it because of something in your life causing you a lot of emotional stress? If so, you want to try your best to resolve the issue, or find ways to help you cope with it. Another reason could be that you have some issues with your posture, such as your upper back being hunched, causing your shoulders and head to round forward. In this case, those upper trapezius muscles might be overworking to compensate for the postural problem, and thus a good approach would be to work on your alignment, rather than simply trying to stretch the area out.
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Another common example I see in clinic is with the hamstrings. During a consultation I’ll give my clients a programme of posture correction exercises that I’m confident will help their posture, but right at the end of the session I’m sometimes asked if I can add one more in to stretch out their hamstrings. I always ask them why they want to do this, and the reply is usually the same – “my hamstrings feel tight”. It’s then that I have to have a conversation with them about tight versus taut muscles. With many of the clients I see, their pelvis has rolled forward into an anterior pelvic tilt. This has caused their hamstrings to lengthen and become taut, and combined with other factors they might then feel like they are tight. In this situation it would be crazy to regularly stretch the hamstrings because they are already lengthened. A much better approach would be to do some posture correction exercises which help get the pelvis into a more neutral position, so that there is less pull on the hamstrings, and hopefully that feeling of tightness will lessen. The key is to always go after the root cause or causes.
I hope you find this video beneficial.
Ameet Bhakta BSc, DipHE – I’m a Posture Correction Specialist certified by the Egoscue Institute, and founder of Health Through Posture.