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Stretching Can Decrease Pain and Increase Flexibility for Better Range of Motion

By Hiroki Yokoyama, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS

Clinical Director, ProSport Physical Therapy & Performance

Stretching can help decrease common painful areas in the body such as our knees, low back, and shoulders by increasing the flexibility of our muscles and in turn allows for better range of motion in our joints. When our joints have the ability to move fully throughout their range, we are able to move more freely, feel better overall because our body is more balanced.

It is beneficial to perform an easy 5-10 minute warmup such as a brisk walk outside or in place before stretching to wake up the muscles. Also, hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Also, hold each stretch for 30 seconds for two to three repetitions.

Quad stretch

How to perform:

• Standing on leg, bend the opposite knee back behind you

Cues to remember:

1) brace the abdominal muscles to prevent lower back from arching,

2) squeeze the buttocks muscles of the side you are stretching to

• Stretching the quad muscle (front of the thigh) can help alleviate low back, hip, and knee pain

Standing Hamstring stretch

How to perform:

• Standing on one leg, prop the opposite leg up and lean body forward

Cues to remember:

• Hinge the body at the hips and keep spine erect without rounding the body

• Stretching the hamstring muscle (behind the thigh) can also help with low back, hip, and knee pain

Piriformis stretch

How to perform:

• Lie on your back, cross one leg over and pull the opposite thigh towards you.

Cues to remember:

• Relax neck muscles to prevent straining of neck

• Stretching the piriformis helpsloosen the hips and can help with low back pain, sciatic nerve pain, as well as pain in knees, ankle, and feet indirectly

Calf stretch against wall

How to perform:

• Place one foot onto the wall, then try to get the front of your hips as close to the wall as possible


• Try to drive your hips towards the wall to keep angle between stomach and thigh as straight as possible

• Stretching the calf muscles can help in ankle flexibility and as a result improve walking mechanics and help/prevent knee pain, ankle, and foot pain

Hip flexor stretch on and off the wall

How to Perform:

• Perform a half kneeling position on the floor with one knee on the ground and the opposite leg in front of the body. Lung forward to feel a stretch in the front of the hips/thigh


1) brace the abdominals to prevent low back from arching.

2) tuck the pelvis under (posterior pelvic tilt) by squeezing the gluteal muscle of the same side of the knee that’s on the ground.

• Variation: prop foot against a wall to stretch a lower in the thigh.

• Hip flexors often get tight due to long amounts of sitting we do throughout the day.Stretching the hip flexors can help counter this and also decrease low back and knee pain as this muscle attaches both at in front of the hips and knee

Pectoralis stretch

How to Perform:

• With arm straight, reach out to behind the same side of the body and place palm of one hand flat against the wall. Rotate the body towards the opposite side until you feel a stretch in the pecs.


• Keep arms straight

• Stretching the pectoralis muscles is important in counteracting our slouched posture we have when driving, using the computer, and using mobile devices

Upper trapezius/Neck stretch

How to perform:

• Look straight forward and tilt the neck toward one side while gently pulling further with your hand.

Cues: You can place the opposite arm behind the back to prevent the shoulder from rising upward

• The upper trapezius (neck muscle) is a common muscle we overuse and hold our stress.

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