Muscle tissue, among its many properties, has the ability to shorten, which we call contraction, and stretch. Flexibility is the ability of muscle to recover its original length after a contraction, and it allows the full range of movement in joints.
We often confuse muscle flexibility with hyperlaxity. There are people who are hyperlaxes, which means their ligaments allow a greater range of motion than normal in the joints. Different concept as hyperflexible.
Types of injuries according flexibility
When we think about injuries due to flexibility the first thing that comes to mind is the sport world. Regarding this, we can find two different situations:
– Extreme flexibility: that occurs in activities as rhythmic or artistic gymnastics, where joint instability occurs.
– Lack of flexibility: due to insufficient stretching work, for example in those sports in which we overwork, muscle contractility (running, football,…). This type is more common and that’s why I’m going to concentrate on them
But not everything is reduced to sport world. A sedentary person, who performs repetitive movements always overloading the same muscles, is also susceptible to suffer injuries due to lack of flexibility. For example, a person who works 8h in front of computer.
Mechanism of injury
Body muscles do not work alone, they always have their antagonist partner. So when a muscle contracts, the opposite one is stretching and vice versa.
For example: quadriceps-hamstrings.
When a muscle is overloaded or tight, is not able to stretch at the same time that its antagonist. This means it can not be activated correctly and can generate jerks or muscle tears.
Although overload muscles do not allow full range of movement in joint, making them susceptible to suffer pinching or pathology.
Conclusions: what do we recommend in Anatomy Rehab?
As a physiotherapist, I recommend the prevention of injuries through effective stretching (not less than 20-25sec) after physical training but also after day-to-day postures maintained in time, and body’s overall toning exercise.
A good option for those who are not gym lovers may be pilates or yoga. In case of having any pathology or muscle overload, I recommend always going to a physiotherapist first to perform the corresponding treatment and have personalized tips.