It can be quite tricky staying motivated to go to the gym. I know from experience that I’m highly motivated during holiday times and at weekends, but during the week my work life takes over and when I get home I just want to chill out. I often went to the gym to focus on my Erb’s Palsy arm with the aim to develop some strength and muscle. I didn’t really consider the importance of stretching.
When I was a little bit younger I was always doing sport of some sort. I played cricket to a reasonably high standard, I played squash twice per week and I’d often go out running. As I’ve got into my 30’s my fitness levels have gone down slightly. I had a knee operation last year, which meant that I couldn’t play cricket to the standard I once did. One thing that was always important before and after I did any exercise was stretching. The idea of going for a run or playing cricket without stretching seemed crazy. It’s such an important part of the process and to be honest, I think it’s just as important, if not more important that the exercise itself. Especially in the case of #brachialplexusinjury / Erb’s Palsy.
I enjoy doing a bit of yoga from time to time. I went to Tai Chi classes for six years and I also did a small amount of martial arts while I was at University. I was a lot more flexible then and my Erb’s Palsy arm appeared to hang a lot looser. It seems that the less exercise I do, the stiffer it becomes. I put a lot of this down to the stretching that I did with those activities.
If you don’t have time to go to the gym, you certainly have time to stretch while you’re at home watching the TV. Just like any muscle in your body, if you don’t use it, the muscle will seize up and get stiff. It’s too easy to allow our other hand to do all of the work. Here are 5 reasons why I believe you should stretch on a daily basis.
"When I look at myself in the mirror, I see that my right side is more developed than my left. It’s something that I’ve worried about for many years, but with stretching, I could potentially see this change."
1. It Will Help With Your Range Of Movement
The issue with #erbspalsy is that it’s nerve damage and when the nerve is severed, in most cases there are movements that will simply never return. It’s like cutting the power cable to your house and then you keep on trying to turn on the television. Stretching your muscles and moving them into positions that they can’t move to on their own could trigger some of the nerves again. It could potentially waken them up. If you have tight hamstrings in your legs, you can stretch them out and increase the range of leg movement. Look at professional dancers. Their range of movement is crazy. Try not to think that because you can’t move your arm now, stretching won’t help.
2. It Will Hang Looser
If your arm is like mine and it doesn’t hang straight, then stretching will certainly help it hang looser. If I don’t stretch, the muscles will tighten and will feel and look stiff. Just a few minutes a day will keep the muscles supple and will therefore hang better. When you then walk it will swing better and be less rigid.
3. It Will Feel Better / You Will Feel Better
Like any muscle in your body, it can feel stiff sometimes. As soon as you have done some stretches your body starts to loosen up and you feel better. Stretching can increase the blood flow to your muscles and may improve your circulation. If you do it regularly it can be a great stress relief as we carry tension in our muscles, usually in our neck and shoulders. On top of that, if you combine it with meditation / mindfulness then you can calm your busy mind.
4. It Will Help Build Confidence
Having an arm that feels better, looks looser and has an increased range of movement will definitely make you feel more confident. Confidence is different with each individual, but I’m pretty sure that if you have any issues with self-image, you will feel a lot better if you noticed a difference in your arm. For me, as I mentioned earlier, I sometimes feel self-conscious about the way my arm hangs, but stretching regularly definitely helped my confidence.
5. It Could Help Build Strength
If you have a bigger range of movement and more flexibility then you will be able to do things that you were previously unable to do. You will be able to do more exercises, which could build up strength in your effected arm. Once you have a bigger range of movement you would be able to work on being more symmetrical. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see that my right side is more developed than my left. It’s something that I’ve worried about for many years, but with stretching, I could potentially see this change.
Try it and see how it goes
Some of this is theory, but it does make sense. I would like to hear from you if you have noticed any difference with daily practice. Stretching is something I think that we should all do, regardless of having Erb’s Palsy as there are certainly health benefits. If you can combine it with some mindfulness, then you are certainly onto a winner. I have added a video below of some stretches and exercises that I do at home. Some of them are working on my core, some on my arm and some a combination of them both. I hope you find them useful.