Flexibility is defined as the ability of a joint, or joints, to move through a full range of motion with ease and fluidity. As flexibility improves that range of motion as measured in degrees through which a joint can move increases.
Types of Flexibility
- Static Flexibility: The measure of total range of motion (ROM) at a joint with no consideration of how easily, how fluidly, or how quickly the ROM is achieved.
- Dynamic Flexibility: The measure of the torque or resistance to movement within a joint, which affects how easily, fluidly, and quickly a joint can move through the ROM.
Why Develop Flexibility
- The more flexibility a person develops, the more effective and smoothly the movements they perform will occur. This is because there is not the inherent resistance offered by otherwise inflexible muscles, the potential interruption of coordinated movements, or responsiveness to natural movement.
- Tissues that allow for proper and adequate range of motion allow for the normal activities of daily living, proper posture, and enhanced athletic performance, are more resistant to strain or injury, and usually experience a more rapid recovery from soreness post vigorous activity.
Factors Affecting Flexibility
There are a number of factors that can affect the development and maintenance of flexibility and joint range of motion. These include:
- Physical activity and the associated movement patterns are the most important determinants of flexibility.
- Flexibility tends to decrease as a person grows older due to changes in the elasticity of soft tissues and the likelihood of reduced levels of physical activity.
- There appears to be a greater level of flexibility in females, which is hypothesized to be due to pelvic structure and hormonal influences that affect the laxity of connective tissues.
The Goal of Stretching
Typically, the goal of stretching is to stretch tissues (muscle and its fascia) so that a degree of elongation (a relatively permanent lengthening of a tissue) remains when the force causing the stretch is removed contributing to a gradual deformation of the tissue – moving from the elastic phase to the plastic stage, and the development of new sarcomeres (sarcomere ins series) within muscle fiber. This combination results in a longer muscle and its connective tissues.
The Consequences of Inflexibility and Reduced Range of Motion
Whenever the improper association or balance between agonist and antagonist muscle groups occurs, there are abnormal and unbalanced forces acting on joints and tissues. These imbalances of force/compression application can cause pain and discomfort in the joints. Just as insufficient strength in certain muscles can make them prone to injury, a lack of muscle flexibility can also predispose it to injury and contribute to a progressing muscle imbalance and postural deviations and irritation to certain tissues.
Stretching for Muscle Flexibility and Enhanced Range of Motion
Several devices have been developed to aid and enhance an individual’s ability to effectively stretch their muscles. Many of these devices do so by increasing biomechanical force arms so greater leverage can be applied to more effectively apply the force needed to truly create an elongation of the muscle, and when applied consistently overtime, increase a muscles flexibility and a joint’s range of motion.
Some of these stretching devices include:
- Ankle stretch aids
- Incline boards
- Stretch straps
- Foam rollers
- Pulley systems
- Shoulder stretchers
- Therapy balls
- Wheels and ladders
We at ProHealthcareProeucts.com recognize the often under appreciated and under performed therapeutic intervention of stretching for improved flexibility and range of motion. Check the many different types of devices that have been created to help you and your customers or patients more effectively stretch their muscles.