Over time strength and mobility decline, limiting activity tolerance and function. This decrease in function and mobility causes many older adults to spend long periods of time sitting with poor posture. This poor posture can over time lead to pain and and an even further decline in function. Often the benefits of a simple stretching program are overlooked. For this reason we wanted to give you our TOP 5 STRETCHES
#1. PEC STRETCH
We are all guilty of sitting with a poor forward flexed posture. I have often caught myself sitting with an awful amount of flexion when correcting the posture of a patient. This simple stretch is important for patients and home health clinicians alike (too much time in the car). This simple stretch can lead to improved thoracic extension, decreased forward shoulder posturing, assists with positioning scapula for proper activation of rotator cuff musculature, and can improve overhead reaching for many functional tasks.
Image from abbottcenter.com
#2. SHOULDER EXTERNAL ROTATION/ABDUCTION STRETCH
Touching the back of your head with both hands. This stretch is done best while lying supine on bed without a pillow. Regular 20-30 second stretches in this “relaxed on a beach somewhere” stretch provides for improved independence in grooming tasks, improved ability to reach overhead, improved independence with dressing (to don/doff a t-shirt) and many more functional tasks!
Image from bjdonline.org
#3. HAMSTRING STRETCH
This stretch can be done in so many positions depending on a patients mobility and helps to improve lower body reaching ability and leads to improved independence in all tasks that involve reaching below the waist. It helps with donning/doffing shoes and socks, threading legs into underwear or pants, or picking up dropped items safely and without a fall. Tight hamstrings can prevent full knee extension making walking more difficult and can lead to a posterior pelvic tilt causing increased kyphotic posture and flexion in the spine.
#4. HIP FLEXOR STRETCH
Hip flexors…The bane of the physical therapy world! As function decreases, older adults often spend more time sitting which can lead to tightness in hip flexors. This can limit ability to stand upright and can create an anterior pelvic tilt and low back pain. Tight hip flexors also limit hip extension during gait which decreases step length and continues to increase stress on the lumbar spine from compensatory movements.
Get more bang for your buck with a standing hip flexor stretch in a doorway. Using a doorway to give support and foot up on a chair to limit compensation through the pelvis and lumbar spine. With your arms on a doorway you can promote upright trunk posture, open up the chest and stretch the hip all at the same time!!!
Image from www.physicaltherapyfirst.com Image from spectrumrehab.net
#5. CALF STRECH
Prolonged periods of sitting and lying down place calf muscles in a shortened position which can lead to muscle tightness, pain, and gait deviations. Some of the benefits for this stretch include improved step length in gait, maintenance of adequate and proper positioning at the hip and knee, and improved knee extension.
Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of stretches on improving a patient’s function.