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The Benefits of Stretching with MS

By Matt Cavallo

When I think about stretching, I think about getting warmed up for a game. I remember when I was younger and played organized sports, we would stretch before and after the game. I was not one for practice, so I never put much effort into stretching. Older me wishes younger me took stretching and physical fitness more seriously.

Now I am in my midforties and have had MS for more than 15 years, my right hamstring feels like an elastic band pulled tight. I fear it could snap at any second with a wrong move. My leg is also in constant pain because of the stiffness. It is causing me to limp slightly when I walk because I don’t bend my right leg as I would with a normal stride. It’s a subtle limp, but it is there. At least, I notice it. I also have hip bursitis on my right side. 

With these issues effecting my mobility, I decided to go to physical therapy. While they treated the hip with some manual therapy, electronic stimulation, and ultrasound, they also wanted me to stretch. Not only stretch while at my appointments, but when I am at home, too. I thought to myself “Great, I didn’t take stretching seriously when I was younger and now, as an adult rehabbing my leg is dependent on it.” 

I have had the need for assistive devices and have been able to use some of them from around the house. For example, my PT told me to put my leg through the stirrup of the dog leash and then use the clasp end to pull my leg up. By holding the leash, I hold the stretch. Using adaptive devices can really help overcome some physical limitations you may have

To clear the cobwebs of childhood and embrace the need for stretching, I started researching the health benefits. As it turns out, there are many benefits to stretching every day. Here are just some of the health benefits:
  • Stretching can help increase your flexibility and range of motion. This can help with your mobility and ability to participate in physical activities. 
  • Stretching can help with pain and tightness. You want to be careful not to overdo it. Use adaptive devices and get to a comfortable position where you feel the stretch. 
  • Stretching can increase blood flow, which can help with recovery and overall heart health.
  • Stretching can also be calming and stress relieving for your body and mind.

Stretching is a discipline and is difficult at first. You’ll want to ease into it. Daily stretching can lead to overall health benefits and help manage nagging injuries like it has for me. I recommend consulting a physical therapist if you have certain deficits and believe that stretching can help.