Before I share my opinion let me clarify that BOTH stretching and strengthening are beneficial and BOTH have their time and place. A lot of people come in with spinal misalignment that has resulted from things like tight hip flexors and hamstrings and day in and out I help people with these issues. Not only that, but stretching feels good, you usually feel the results immediately, it reduces stress, releases endorphins, increases blood flow, improves range of motion, and over the long term keeps soft tissues conditioned and more resilient to injury.
The benefits of stretching are obvious. But from a chiropractic standpoint if I were to just choose either stretching or strengthening for my patients to do on a regular basis I would definitely choose strengthening, and here’s why:
I talked about it in last week’s post, but as a society we are becoming more and more well…’mushy.’
Our lives are becoming so sedentary that in our day-to-day routine we run into fewer and fewer opportunities to both build and maintain muscle mass (unless a person is exercising for strength regularly). For example, if you’re like me I rarely carry my groceries home with me me from a nearby grocery store several times a week. More likely I’m doing one big trip a week with my truck to save time. This is also why I do crossfit to stay strong.
Many of my clients also have jobs that keep them sitting for large portions of the day as well- which inevitably throughout a day results in poor posture and stretched out postural muscles- particularly of the upper and mid back.
So here’s a question: Suppose you’re at a desk for large portion of the day and despite your best efforts to keep good upright posture you eventually have bad posture. Let’s suppose your bad posture then leads to stretched out postural muscles.
If your postural muscles are already stretched out- what will help to keep your spine in place- more stretching of the postural muscles OR more strengthening and building of stronger, more resilient postural muscles?
Hopefully strengthening of the postural muscles made more sense in this case.
To illustrate- if your spine is like the framework of a house (your body) that protects the electrical system ( your nervous system) then your muscles are the cement, mortar, and bricks that support the framework and keep it sturdy.
Unfortunately I do come across a lot of ‘mushy’ weak backs in my office that are in serious need of sturdiness. While stretching is an important and valuable aspect of a health care regime, I highly recommend to most people to go for strength first.