You already know why muscle stretching - just about any time you have pain.

Muscles which are causing or increasing pain have parts which are quite tender, compared to the rest of the muscle.

If you press hard enough, anywhere will be tender. Different people first feel pain at very different amounts of pressure. That is, their “pain thresholds” vary a lot.

One extreme of pain thresholds is seen in fibromyalgia. The other extreme can be induced by hypnosis, where an individual feels no pain.

Pressing with progressively more force on healthy tissue, produces a proportionally more severe pain. On the graph below this is represented by the straight line.

Trigger points

Pressing on a trigger point usually elicits an “ouch” or a wince, because the pain rises exponentially as the pressure is increased. This is represented by the curved line on the graph.

trigger points

Pain on the inner side of the knee is often from trigger points shown here, and will respond well to muscle stretching.

In a nutshell, you are looking for spots that are distinctly more tender than the rest.

If you examine the muscle in a mildly stretched state, you may be able to feel that the tender spot is a swollen area in a tight band of muscle.

You may read about the distinction between trigger points and tender points, that the latter do not produce referred pain. I think that this is just a matter of degree. The sorer a spot, the more likely pain is to spread from it.

As I treat people, pain moves back towards the spine, or back towards where I'm pressing on a sore spot in a muscle. It spreads less as it gets better.

Most of the time, I rely on the person's normal activity to release any secondary muscle spasm, after I've dealt with the spinal joint causing the problem.

Sometimes people tell me later that they had to get a massage before they were completely better.

Muscle stretching tips

I don't often have to resort to direct treatment of trigger points, as most muscles can be stretched end to end. When the anatomy makes this impossible, one has to use direct pressure on the muscle.

An example of this is subclavius. Lifting your shoulder does stretch this little muscle, but not enough to relax it. I treat it by direct pressure on the most tender part (trigger point if you prefer) as described below. Shoulder rolls are good.

There are many good methods used for muscle stretching, such as PNF technique. See also Travell and Simons book "Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction" A recent review which includes mention of one of my teachers Vladimir Janda, can be found at Int J Sports Phys Ther. Feb 2012

I use simple pressure on the tender spots in the muscles, or stretching the ends of the muscle apart (elongating it.) Pressure stretches by bowing the fibres sideways (splaying them out.) Cupping works by sucking, bowing them upwards towards the cup.

Massage and rolfing combine both mechanisms. The pressure into the muscle splays it out sideways, while the movement of the hand stretches the muscle in its' length.

An excellent resource on sports massage for prevention and optimum treatment of some injuries is

muscle stretching methods

Very often, one can only stretch part of the muscle at a time. Stretching a muscle in it's length, can only stretch the tightest part first. Pressing into a muscle can only stretch the part closest to the surface first.

When subjected to a steady stretching, muscles often take two minutes before they cease resisting and lengthen a bit. The next tightest or next deeper muscle fibers then take another 2 minutes and so on.

You need a lot of patience and need to be prepared to put up with some pain during this process.

Stretching too strongly is a good way to induce muscle spasms.

If you have chosen a decently sore muscle to stretch, the end result will often be considerable relief within a few minutes.

Kinesiology and the swinging door analogy

This is a totally different approach to dealing with tight muscles, which I learned years ago and didn't pursue. This system looks for the cause of the tight muscle and treats that.

A bar room door with double hinges can be swung either way and always returns to the closed position. Any muscle will have a partner with the opposite effect, with a balance in their actions.

George Goodheart realized that the primary problem of the pair was the weak one, which lead to tightness in the other. His kinesiology system treats the cause of the weakness.

See a good dissertation on this at
If you are interested in a home study course on examination of the spine, please send me your e-mail address by the contact form.

Memories buried in muscles.

I have attended at different times a chiropractor, a kinesiologist and another osteopathic musculoskeletal practitioner. The latter two often deal with past emotional influences on the problem in hand as well as doing manual therapy.

There are techniques one can use oneself, preferably in the company of an understanding friend, is to access the past memories and deal with them.
One is the time line method of the Centerpointe Research Institute. Another is to press the sore spot and ask for the symbol used in one's memory associated with it. Ask for its shape, size, colour etc and then address the symbol directly to show the circumstances when it was first formed. One has to be settled emotionally and to listen for the first immediate response to each question.
Remembering the primary event may be all that is needed, along the lines of "better the devil you know..."

Gluteus medius, Adductor muscle stretching for referrred knee pain


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If you are interested in a home study course on examination of the spine, please send me your e-mail address by the contact form.