By Kristian Berg
Pages: Approx. 152
Available: March 2011
CHAMPAIGN, IL—People can be classified into two categories: those who have back pain and those who will get back pain. But according to Kristian Berg, author of the upcoming Prescriptive Stretching (Human Kinetics, March 2011), the inevitability of back pain can be avoided with stretching.
“During a stretch there is increased blood flow to the muscle, causing it to relax,” Berg explains. “As circulation increases, the blood washes substances that cause pain out of the muscle, thereby decreasing pain.”
He notes that people often don’t see the consequences of not stretching until they are reminded by pain in the body. “You save up for pain—the body doesn’t forget what you’ve been up to the last 20 years,” Berg says.
Berg advises stretching daily and believes it should be part of daily body maintenance, likening it to the habit of brushing one’s teeth. In Prescriptive Stretching, he offers four principles for an effective and safe stretching routine.
- Avoid pain. When stretching correctly, muscles will react in the desired manner. But, if muscles are stretched to the point of pain, the body’s defense mechanisms will kick in. “When muscles register pain, they try to protect themselves by contracting, which is the opposite of what you want to achieve,” Berg says. “But, slight pain during a stretch can feel good if the pain doesn’t spread to the rest of the body.” Distinguishing between the burn of stretching and pain is vital.
- Stretch slowly. Stretching should be progressive and never forceful. “If you throw your arms or legs out during the stretch, the muscle will stretch too fast,” Berg says. “The body will try to protect the muscle by contracting it, preventing you from reaching your goal.”
- Stretch the correct muscle. “Although this sounds obvious, you must use proper technique to follow this rule,” Berg notes. Movement that goes a couple of degrees in the wrong direction can mean the difference between stretching the muscle and pulling on the joint capsule or similarly harming the body.
- Avoid affecting other muscles and joints. Stretching that is careless or poorly done can negatively affect other muscles and joints, actually worsening your condition. “This common mistake is the main reason why some people consider stretching worthless or painful,” Berg says.
Prescriptive Stretching presents detailed visual instruction on 40 stretches using full-color anatomical illustrations to demonstrate exactly how each stretch targets a specific muscle. For more information, see Prescriptive Stretching.
Kristian Berg is a doctor of naprapathy, a medical therapy that focuses on manual manipulation and stretching of the spine and connective tissues. He has managed his own clinic in Stockholm, Sweden, since 1988. Berg participates annually in international training courses in dissection, anatomy, and manipulative techniques. At his clinic he has shown more than 30,000 patients the importance of stretching and muscular balance for overall health. Berg is also the principal at the Personal Training School and a lecturer in anatomy at the Scandinavian College of Naprapathic Manual Medicine in Stockholm. He is a highly regarded speaker on stretching and athletic training in Sweden and throughout Europe.
Before becoming a naprapath, Berg was a nationally ranked gymnast and a talented junior tennis player. More recently, he has competed as a multisport athlete and has climbed Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America. Berg currently resides in Svartsjo, Sweden.
Muscles of the Human Body
Programs for Pain Relief
Assessing Flexibility and Muscle Balance
About the Author
- What are the best stretches for preventing morning aches and pains?
- How can stretching help alleviate and prevent headaches?
- PNF stretching combines passive stretching and isometric contractions. Why does this type of stretching lead to quick improvements in range of motion?
- Why should people implement a stretching program into their fitness routine?
- Why can stretching help decrease pain?
- Should people stretch before or after a workout?
- What are some of the stretches that should be avoided?
- What is the proper way to stand and what are the consequences of poor posture?
- In many professions, people are required to sit in front of computers all day, and they often get kinks in their necks. What are the best stretches for treating neck pain?
- What are the best stretches for treating upper-back pain?
- Some findings indicate that the chemical components of muscles are altered by pain. Researchers believe that stretching increases blood flow to the muscle, causing it to relax more. As the circulation increases, the blood washes substances that cause pain out of the muscle, thereby decreasing the pain. (Prescriptive Stretching)
- Regular stretching, when performed at times other than before performance, may elicit positive long-term performance outcomes. However, preperformance stretching may elicit insignificant or negative performance outcomes. (IDEA Health & Fitness Association)
- Because of minor differences in joint structures and connective-tissue anatomy, women have slightly greater range of motion (ROM) than men for most joint motions. In a sample of 190 male and female subjects ranging in age from 18 to 88 years, 17 joint actions in 8 specific joints were measured. The female subjects had greater overall flexibility than the males. In an assessment of the upper-body joints of a group of 41 subjects (22 young male and female subjects aged 25 to 35 years and 19 mature male and female subjects aged 65 to 80 years), studies found females to have significantly greater ROM in several joint actions. However, these researchers note that the effect of sex on ROM is much less than that of age. (IDEA Health & Fitness Association)
- Scientific studies have shown that muscles that are being statically stretched for a period of time initially become less able to absorb energy, and they lose their ability to tolerate strain. Therefore, this can lead to increased risk of injury during subsequent forced muscle contractions. This is particularly true if the stretch is being held for more than 30 seconds, which can start to deform the end of the muscles at their tendons, where we find the highest density of a tissue called collagen. (San Diego Union Tribune)
- After an injury or a pulled muscle, people should wait 48 hours before stretching again, and even longer if the injury is severe. If the injury is to a joint, such as a twisted ankle or knee, the injury should be evaluated before stretching. With acute injuries or conditions, such as a stiff neck or back pain, it is important to start stretching right away because movement is often the best treatment for this kind of injury. (Prescriptive Stretching)
"Prescriptive Stretching is a well-illustrated, scientifically sound book that will help you achieve better flexibility and improved wellness.”
Brad Schoenfeld, MS, CSCS
Author of Women’s Home Workout Bible and Sculpting Her Body Perfect
“In Prescriptive Stretching, Kristian Berg offers a recipe for a pain-free life with safe and easy stretches.”
Ulf Westerlund, MD, PhD
“Prescriptive Stretching teaches the correct techniques for achieving balance in the muscles.”
Jan Giaever, MD
Level 2 Sports Medicine Physician