Which is better for pain? Stretching or Strength Exercises?

Stretching Or Strengthening – The Eternal Debate

Ever since starting our Chiropractic Practice 20 years ago, patients have been presenting to our three clinics with injuries such as back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain, hip and knee pain, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow and plantar-fasciitis (foot pain) just to name a few. Pain, stiffness and immobility predominantly being the main presenting symptoms.

Neck pain from work or your job treatment
Neck Pain Kit
£ 59.99
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Treatment For Injuries & Strains

In the early days we would go straight into treatment:

For the most part this would work in the short term but in my experience the improvement would only be temporary. If the muscles are tight it makes sense to stretch, so why are these patients not getting full resolutions from their pain and dysfunction. Why are the symptoms coming back, even after stretching?

Why were the stretches not working?

Lower Back Pain Stretch
Man and woman wearing the Pain Kit upper back support brace
Upper Back Brace
Heat Therapy Pack and Cold Therapy Pack for Injury Rehab
Every Kit Contains Hot & Cold Packs
Instructions for putting on a wrist strap for Carpal Tunnel
Carpal Tunnel Wrist Brace

What Does Stretching do?

Stretching Exercises stretch the muscles fibres with the aim to increase muscle flexibility and improve joint range of movement, to help restore function, decrease pain without resorting to drugs and prevent injury.

Benefits of Stretching

The main benefits of stretching programmes include;

  • Increased range of movement
  • Decreases muscle tension / tone
  • Increases proprioception (awareness of body position)
  • Improves neuromuscular coordination
  • Reduces the risk of muscular and soft tissue injury
  • Improves nutrients to muscle and joints
  • Increase blood flow to help decrease inflammation and pain.

This is great and will work the majority of the time. But for some people, why does it only work temporarily? Why do stretch exercises alone not work for everybody?

Foot Pain Tools Including A Foot Roller For Plantar Fasciitis
The Plantar Fasciitis Kit
Contains A Foot Roller Too!

Benefits Of Strength And Conditioning

Once you have reached a level of rehabilitation, the answer to preventing an injury from recurring is mostly down to strength. If a muscle or muscle groups are weak the stretching exercises will only work temporarily and your injury could re-occur.

Working at a desk for a while is fine, but if you stay in that position for hours and hours, the muscles in your upper body (shoulder, upper back and neck) slowly become fatigued, and this is what sets you up for stiffness/tightness.

You feel this stiffness coming, and you do some stretches to relieve it!

Great – you feel better, but to be very honest, the stretches will only temporarily give the muscles a break, but this won’t prevent the symptoms from coming back again! The issue isn’t the tightness of the muscles in the first place! Using a keyboard and mouse isn’t difficult, but over time it will cause muscle fatigue which induces the sensation of tightness.

Gamer's Thumb Rehab Information Booklet
Gamer's Thumb - Information Booklet

Strengthen Muscles To Help Stiffness And Pain

If you work to strengthen the muscles, these every-day actions become less tiring because you have increased the muscle’s endurance and strength capacity. The muscle is no longer stressed and prone to fatigue – so it’s less prone to stiffness and tightness.

So in our experience a combination of Movement, Stretching and Strengthening for most injuries works best.

  • Move the area of injury
  • Stretch the muscles around the area of injury
  • Strengthen the muscles around the injury
Knee Pain Solution Booklet
Knee Pain - Information Booklet

Frequently Asked Questions:

How Often Should I Stretch For Back Pain?

Stretching (and movement) should be done every couple of hours if you have back pain. It doesn’t have to be very deep or painful stretches. It’s more important to move your back through it’s full range of movement, so that it eases any tightness that has built up over the day.

Does Lifting Weights Help Back Pain?

Lifting weights if your back is injured is certainly a bad idea. With therapy, what you’re looking for is:

  • Stretch Tight Muscles
  • Strengthen Weak Muscles

Only if you’ve had a full diagnosis and are well on your way to recovery, you can use Strength Training as a way to stop the injury coming back. The full range of actions you can try are:

  • Brace / Support
  • Heat Therapy
  • Massage
  • Movement Exercises
  • Stretches
  • Strength Exercises
  • Cold Therapy
Should I Stretch Or Strengthen Hip Flexors?

You would need to do both of these things, to ensure your Hip Flexors are supple enough, and strong enough to do their job. This area of your body can become very stiff if not exercised regularly, with specific movements to target these muscles.

What Are The Signs Of A Weak Knee?

Your knee joint itself won’t be weak unless you’ve an actual injury such as a torn meniscus. Osteoporosis an Osteoarthritis can affect your knee, making it feel weak. Weakness generally refers to the muscles that act on the knee, and work through the joint. A muscle imbalance can cause the kneecap to track wrongly, and mis-align your knee, which is a very common injury experienced by runners or cyclists etc.

Can A Massage Help My Sore Neck?

A Massage does stretch the muscles in your neck, so it’s very beneficial. You should also engage in specific neck stretch exercises so that you are sure you get the full range of movement in the neck. If this helps the pain subside, you can then try some minor strength exercises for your neck, so help avoid the injury coming back. Regular movement, stretching and good posture are the keys!

Beautiful posture for young people experiencing pain
Posture Kit
£ 59.99
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Pack for gamer's thumb pain treatment
Gamer’s Thumb Kit
£ 59.99
  • EUR: € 69.99
  • USD: $ 79.99
Hip Pain Kit
£ 59.99
  • EUR: € 69.99
  • USD: $ 79.99