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Not stretching? Companies will do it for you
01:22 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Companies offer a variety of professional stretching services

Studies show that stretching can help relieve chronic back pain

CNN  — 

Whether you’re climbing a rock wall, sitting in your office or just getting out of bed, you need to stretch.

“It’s always good to stretch in the morning or before you go to bed. But the most important thing isn’t how many times you do it but to establish a routine,” said Dr. Donald Perry, an orthopedic surgeon in Orlando, Florida.

“It definitely helps your range of motion, the limberness,” Perry said. “The number one complaint that people have when they get older is stiffness.”

“If you sit in one position for a prolonged period of time, you tend to be stiff. So I’ll tell people, before you even try to get up, stretch your legs under the table. It makes a big difference.”

Most of the people Perry sees in his office don’t stretch as they get older. “They don’t have the routine to do it,” he said.

And Perry follows his own advice. After a game of basketball, he does a slow, standing rolldown, reaching for his toes. Then he stretches his quadriceps.

Professional stretch companies

Perry also likes to get a professional stretch. The practice is relatively new; businesses have popped up all over the country in the past couple of years, and their sole purpose is to stretch you out. Not yoga, not physical therapy – just stretching.

“What do you want to work on today?” asked Brooke Strasser, stretch practitioner at Stretch Zone in Orlando.

Perry lay on a padded table as Strasser went through hands-on stretches, using straps to help keep his limbs in place. Other stretch companies such as Power Stretch Studios use different methods, including floor mats and an exercise ball. Both franchises say they try to release muscle tension, increase range of motion and improve quality of movement.

“The number one reason I go is to help prevent injury,” Perry said.

The 54-year-old plays basketball and golf and lifts weights. “I also use it as a reminder to stretch on my own and also to have a more professional stretch experience.”

“I frequently have them focus on my back area and my hamstrings. I tend to have tight hamstrings,” he said.

Communication is key

In the case of Stretch Zone, customers are told to communicate with the practitioner so the stretch doesn’t go too far. “The communication with a certified practitioner is really important to make sure that you’re getting the proper stretch and you’re feeling what you should be feeling,” said Jenny Seaberg, co-owner of the Orlando location.

“You have to communicate with the therapist there, because obviously, you don’t want to stretch to the point of injury. And they have a numerical system,” Perry said.

A 3 indicates that you feel some stretch, 5 is a moderate stretch, and 7 is an intense stretch in which the client feels they can’t go any farther, explained Strasser.

In all cases, if you’ve had injuries or surgeries, you should talk with your doctor before getting a professional stretch. In some cases, it helps to push through scar tissue – months and even years after an injury. But stretching too soon can be dangerous. Physical therapists are more appropriate for post-injury stretches.

Of course, there’s the option of yoga or just stretching yourself. However, as stretch companies explain, using your own muscles to stretch your body is different from having a practitioner use their muscles to do it.

Dropping in at Stretch Zone costs about $75 a visit, with packages of about $35 per visit.

Getting started

Lower-back pain is the second leading cause of disability in the US, according to Harvard’s Health Blog. Musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis and injuries affect 50% of all American adults, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

And studies have showed the effectiveness of stretching to relieve chronic back pain.

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    There are many stretch routines you can try, depending on your comfort level and your body’s quirks. Just taking a beginner’s yoga or therapeutic yoga class will help you get started with some ideas you can use at home.

    For older adults, the National Institute on Aging recommends stretches for the neck, shoulders, back and upper body. And the Mayo Clinic offers 10 basic stretches you can do every day.

    There are also numerous books on stretching. “Relax into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility and Pain Relief” may help. It was co-written by a yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. The moves are ones that many people can use without much worry about injury, no matter their age.

    And more information on stretching is available from Harvard Health Publications’ “How stretching keeps your joints moving.”