Can you injure yourself by stretching?

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Question from Imre Sebestyén

We all know how enjoyable it is to have a good stretch when we get out of bed in the morning. As well as being rewarding, stretching is an important part of exercise as it helps your muscles relax and begin to recover after intensive exercise. However, it’s not unusual for stretching to cause a level of pain or discomfort. 

Most of the time this pain is caused by muscle spindles, which force your muscles to contract when you’re at risk of over-stretching. This can cause a jolt of pain that dissuades you from hurting yourself. You can overcome the muscle-spindle tension by persisting with the stretch – but remember that this defence mechanism is there for a reason, as it is possible to both strain and tear a muscle when stretching.

Answered by James Horton for Brain Dump in How It Works issue 132.

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