Strengthen vs Stretch vs Nerve Exercises:
Strengthening is crucial to stabilizing different joints and often can be performed in reduced range of motion to reduce pain in a joint. Our physical therapists will assess and help differentiate when it is appropriate to perform.
Stretching is the most common overused exercise. Many patients come to PT and have been stretching several times a day without any improvement over months. Stretching works quickly within a week we see improvements, however, if you have been stretching without progress then the area may need strengthening or a nerve exercise instead and in fact the stretching might be making you worse.
Nerve exercises are often poorly understood. The nerve has an elastic outer layer like our skin. If this layer has been disrupted then stretching it can be like pulling a scab on your skin apart. Improving blood flow to the nerve by putting the nerve on slack can often help with offload exercises. Progressing to nerve gliding or “flossing” exercises can then allow muscles to appear more flexible and improve muscle activation. Improving nerve health improves the signal to the muscle.