Stretching is an important part of any rehabilitation program that requires the patient to achieve functional motion. Muscle flexibility and joint motion in people without neurological or muscular problems create no issue because the joints are used every day for functional activities, but many conditions and injuries render patients limited in their mobility, leading to loss of function. Even a short hospital stay or body disuse of a few days can lead to muscle wasting, which will require a stretching program for the patient to regain motion, accelerate healing time, and reduce pain.
The process of doing a stretch requires adequate knowledge of the anatomy of the human body and physiological processes of muscles and joints. Stretching will therefore require the guidance of a physical therapist, since unsupervised stretching may result to further injury of not only the affected tissues, but also the surrounding areas as well. The physical therapist should first assess the area and the current condition of the patient, and then determine the appropriate steps to restore motion through formulating a stretching program specific for each patient. The type of stretching may differ for different people, because even though two people have the same condition, their range limitations may differ, and therefore they will require different stretches to achieve the same goal. Achieving an increase in range will allow the therapist to progress the stretch to keep the body challenged and to achieve a more functional goal.
Stretching programs are not limited to the stretch maneuver alone, since the regained motion should be used so the body can maintain it. A combination of exercise, equipment, and other manual techniques may be used in conjunction with stretch in order for the patient to get the most benefit from the program. The set of exercises and stretches are usually done in the clinic, but the therapist will also prescribe take-home self-stretches for the patient to maintain the newly achieved range of motion.
Although stretching can help people with mobility issues, a lot of people who are into athletic activities are also required to stretch to prevent injuries. A customized stretching program can benefit everyone depending on the type of functional and sports activities done every day.