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chronic neck pain: how much stretching is too much?


“Recent studies caution people away from stretching before workouts, suggesting it actually impedes your body’s performance. According to this research, runners run more slowly, jumpers jump less high, and weight lifters lift more weakly by stretching, without significantly ensuring against injury during their exercise.” From Rich Barlow’s 2/9/2015 article in Boston University Today called Stretch Before Exercise? Not So Fast

“Now, two new studies are giving us additional reasons not to stretch.  One, a study being published this month in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, concluded that if you stretch before you lift weights, you may find yourself feeling weaker and wobblier than you expect during your workout. Those findings join those of another new study from Croatia, a bogglingly comprehensive re-analysis of data from earlier experiments that was published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. Together, the studies augment a growing scientific consensus that pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and likely counterproductive.”  From Gretchen Reynold’s Reasons Not to Stretch from the April 3, 2013 issue of the New York Times

“In recent years, however, these commonly held beliefs have come under fire. In 2004, a report published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) questioned the efficacy of stretching, noting that more than 350 studies conducted over four decades had failed to establish that stretching prior to activity prevents injury. To date, studies have also failed to prove that stretching after exercise prevents muscle soreness.”  From Kelle Walsh’s June 2008 article (Stretch and Reach: The Unexaggerated Truth About Stretching) in Experiencing Life

When it comes to NECK STRETCHES, many people — especially those with RESTRICTED FASCIA — are putting the cart in front of the horse.  What do I mean?  Simply that as good and beneficial as stretching can be, if you are trying to stretch HARDCORE FASCIAL ADHESIONS without BREAKING THEM first, your clinical results will likely be compromised.  In fact, it’s why in some cases (particularly the worse cases) THERAPY or REPEATED CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS can actually aggravate certain conditions as opposed to helping them (HERE). 

What I want to answer today is how much stretching a neck requires after the restricted fascia has been broken.  The first thing we have to take into account is that everyone will be somewhat unique.  In other words, there are any number of factors that must be taken into account such as age, lifestyle factors, inherent flexibility, etc, etc.  For instance, I am not going to use the Dakota Traction Device or similar on a 90 year old that has almost no cervical extension. 

However, the generic stretches I gave my grandmother to teach her group of exercisers at the retirement community she lived in before she passed away a number of years ago will work for anyone. I will never forget what happened at her memorial service.  Two brothers, bent, crooked, and holding each other up arm-in-arm, came over to talk to me.  They were both over 100, and both spoke at length about how much the exercises and stretches that my Grandma Alma regularly led them in had helped (I heard that from many of the people she led).  What’s the point?

The point is that stretching can be really good.  But it can also be unhelpful.  If you start looking at studies and articles about stretching, they are literally all over the place, with many actually saying that stretching is worse than not stretching (see quotes from the top of the page).  As long as you don’t have hardcore RADICULOPATHY, INFLAMMATORY ARTHRITIC CONDITIONS, SURGICAL FUSIONS, END-STAGE DEGENERATIVE CHANGES (i.e. non-surgical fusions), etc, etc, etc, stretching is quite necessary after Tissue Remodeling.  In fact, the stretching is what “UNTETHERS” the scar or untangles the proverbial HAIRBALL.  A failure to stretch post-treatment means that the scar is more likely to heal back like it was before — in a fibrotic clump of SCAR TISSUE.

What should this stretching look like?  For some people, all they need are a few simple neck ROM stretches as seen in the first link at the top of the page.  However, some of you are going to have to go further.  When I say further, I mean that you are going to have to deal with the underlying UPPER CROSSED SYNDROME and FHP that usually accompanies it.  EXTENSION THERAPY is great for this, but in many cases the stretching needs to go farther still.  To see why some of you will need to spend a significant amount of time in extension traction of the cervical spine, simply click THIS LINK.  As for ridding your life of runaway inflammation, HERE is a starting point.


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