Stretch Reflex

Information You Should Know Regarding Your Stretch Reflex

The stretch reflex can be most easily defined as a pre-programmed response to muscle stretching that is designed to protect your muscles from tearing. The majority of society is completely unaware of this defense mechanism. Read further for more information about your stretch reflex and important tips regarding it.


How Your Stretch Reflex Works

This reflex is triggered when your muscles get stretched. When your muscles stretch, your muscle spindles (receptors in the muscle) also stretch. During this stretching, the spindles send signals out to your central nervous system in order to regulate the contraction.

Regulating muscle contractions and stretches are imperative to protecting your muscles from tearing. The stretch reflexes get activated in order to prevent over-lengthening of the muscles by causing the surrounding muscles to contract and tighten.


There are two stages of this defensive mechanism: the dynamic reflex and the static reflex. When a sudden stretch or contraction occurs, the dynamic reflex is the initial responder. It only lasts a few short minutes, but depending on how strong the triggering stretch was will determine the strength of the dynamic reflex. It will gradually diminish as the muscle tension goes away. The static reflex will occur only as long as the muscle is lengthened or stretched.

Enhanced Flexibility

When properly used, your stretch reflex can actually enhance your flexibility, but this is generally advised against if you are not in good condition since the likelihood of injury is raised. Your reflex can be utilized to your benefit by stretching your muscle and holding it beyond the confines of the protective mechanism. Doing so will increase your muscle lengthening.

Additionally, if you increase the length of time you hold the stretch and allow the initial reflex to ease off and relax, you will also encourage any surrounding muscle to benefit from the stretching as well. This will provide an overall flexibility increase in that entire muscle group. Many athletes utilize this method because once the reflex relaxes they can stretch even further and promote their muscle elasticity.

Proper stretching and boosting of your muscle health can help reduce the likelihood of muscle tears and strains, although it is never wise to skip a stretching session before and after any workout.

Dangers of Improper Stretching

Improper stretching techniques can greatly increase your chances of injuring your muscles and possibly tearing them. If you over stretch or stretch suddenly, you are going to illicit a stronger dynamic reflex. This sudden, often sharp protective reaction commonly causes muscle strain and injury since it is not brought on gradually.

 

Sudden, jerky exercises and stretches such as bouncing on the balls of your feet can also cause a heightened protective reflex. If you are not in good shape this will usually cause a strain of some sort, but t can also occur in seasoned athletes as well, and is the main reason experts advise against skipping gentle stretching exercises before engaging in physical activities.

In Case of Injury…

If you inadvertently over-stretch or pull a muscle, you will feel a sharp and sudden intense pain shoot through the afflicted area, usually followed by a dull throbbing. It’s important to stop whatever activities you were engaging in immediately, or you run the risk of further injury.

In severe cases, medical treatment may be required, since the muscle may have detached from the bone. Although this is usually only the case in extreme physical activities, it can cause lifelong problems and any bad muscle strain should be looked into by a professional to be on the safe side.