Certain (overcome) stretches can intensify my pain, should I keep doing them anyway or back off?

By: Dr. Brianne Grogan, PT, DPT

While we don't encourage you to "push through pain," we do NOT recommend avoiding the stretches altogether. One of the intentions of Overcome is to show your body that it's safe to move through a range of gentle exercises and stretches, thereby interrupting the fear-avoidance pain cycle. That being said, it's important to keep the stretches as comfortable and pain-free as possible so that your body doesn't fight against them. 

I recommend "backing off" (i.e. finding ways to decrease the intensity) of any stretch that you've identified as problematic. Some examples:

  • Frog stretch on your back -- use pillows to prop up your knees so that you feel completely supported while flopping your legs apart
  • Widening your legs really wide when on the floor -- bring your legs closer together and increase the stretch by making sure you're sitting up tall on your sitting bones (this will make it more of a hamstring stretch and less of an adductor stretch)
  • Wide knee child's pose -- bring your knees closer together

Always breathe deeply throughout the stretches, increasing the length of your exhalations. This simple act of extending your exhalation stimulates the vagus nerve, which helps to calm the nervous system and activates a sense of safety and control. Use supports/props whenever needed (i.e. pillows, yoga blocks, bolsters, folded blankets). 

Basically, do what you need to do so that you can CONTINUE the stretches, rather than avoiding them altogether. 

As far as moving forward, we do not recommend moving forward to month two until you've made sufficient progress in month one. So I'd encourage you to repeat at least weeks 3 and 4 of month one before progressing.

To recap: the Overarching goal of Overcome is to move/stretch your body in a VERY gradually progressive manner, keeping it within a pain-free range so that your body doesn't reflexively tense up in order to protect itself. By making the progressions gradual and incremental, and giving your body the time and support it needs (via props, modifications, etc.), your body will have the "victory" of completing each pose/stretch successfully. You'll have moved through the poses and stress, thus breaking the fear-avoidance cycle of pain.

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