As a physical therapist, a common question I hear from my clients is whether they should release a tight muscle or stretch a tight muscle? The answer that I always give them is simple, “both”. The reason why you should perform both a muscle release and a stretch is because they are two different techniques, each with a different purpose, that is both geared towards improving the health and function of your muscles. Let’s look into each one a little closer.
🔳 Active Muscle Release:
An active muscle release is used to target restrictions, or areas of immobility, in your muscles. It is a technique that involves both deep static pressure to an area of restricted muscle tissue coupled with an active movement of that muscle. It’s benefits include, but are not limited to, relaxing areas of contracted muscle, improving muscle fiber mobility, increasing blood flow, decreasing localized pain, and preparing a muscle for activity.
🔲 Muscle Stretch:
A stretch is used to improve the length and flexibility of a particular muscle to help increase its range of motion. There are two main forms of stretching, static and dynamic, each with its own purpose. Static stretching helps to create long-term changes in muscle length and flexibility whereas dynamic stretching helps to create short-term changes while also increasing blood flow and preparing the muscle for activity.
For maximum benefits, it is recommended that you perform an active muscle release before any type of stretching. The reason for this is because if the intended muscle has any type of restriction in its fibers, then you will not be able to get the full effects of the stretch as those muscle fibers are immobile. However, once you perform an active muscle release to that area, those muscle fibers are now able to relax and move normally, allowing for a greater stretch in the muscle.
For questions on how to release or stretch a certain muscle, be sure to check out our React Physical Therapy Youtube channel for instructional videos, or consult with one of our physical therapists!