Stretching is not a panacea for what ails you. But it is a helpful way to avoid problems and for gaining a foothold on certain aspects of your health. As a physical therapist for 20 years, I’ve watched people improve their health and well-being with a proper stretching regimen. I’ve also seen people with painful conditions find relief through a guided stretching program.
However, when addressing the idea of stretching for people who do repetitive work, there’s a time to stretch. . . and a time . . . to perhaps look for other therapies.
The timeframe for stretching is on the front end of symptoms. Catching muscle fatigue before it happens is the goal. You see, fatigue during repetitive actions is a slippery slope to other potential problems, like discomfort, pain, or other symptoms. Used preventively, stretching is a frontline tool for helping people avoid problems of overuse at work.
The notion that people shouldn’t stretch when sore or fatigued is only hazardous if the condition has progressed to the point of tissue damage. At that point, an individualized stretching program could prove harmful.
However, in my discussion of rest and recovery with workers who are at risk for overuse problems, I always promote stretching in the the context of avoiding the slippery slope of fatigue. Stretching tissues that have been hard at work, as with repetitive keyboarding or athletics, is healing. Tissues that have not progressed to being damaged respond best to active stretching.
On the flip-side, if tissue damage associated with overuse has occurred, stretching may not be the best choice. Certainly, the degree of fatigue, soreness, or pain, should be considered prior to initiating a stretching program. This is why working with professional such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, physiatrist, or chiropractor, who is knowledgeable in the area of overuse problems at work makes sense.
For more information on overuse problems at work, I encourage you to watch my short video on the topic.