Gentle stretching can be performed by physical therapists and/or practiced by patients at home. Several programs have been fashioned for Fibromyalgia (FM), Chronic Myofascial Pain (CMP), and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) patients for this purpose. Stretching is important because it helps to relieve muscle tension and spasm. In difficult-to-treat areas, "spray and stretch" techniques can be used by applying a spray coolant to sore muscles, which deadens pain while the muscles are stretched. Many therapists prefer to ice the muscle, since the spray is a prescription, is flammable, and causes pollution. Ice works just as effectively.

Stretching, as it relates to physical health and fitness, is the process of placing particular parts of the body into a position that will lengthen the muscles and associated soft tissues. Stretching is a simple and effective activity that helps to minimize muscle and joint soreness in FM and other musculoskeletal conditions.

There is a right way to stretch and a wrong way to stretch. So, you must be careful. Stretching can be damaging if done incorrectly. You don’t want to do more harm than good! It is important that the following guidelines be followed, both for safety and for maximizing the potential benefits of stretching.

The most important things you need to know about stretching:

Warm up the muscles FIRST: Cold muscles can injure very easily and so it is very important to warm up the body before any significant stretching or exercise. The body's core temperature needs to be brought up during your warm-up. This will increase the temperature of the muscles, making them more pliable and loose. A warm-up will also increase the heart rate, blood flow and nutrients getting to the muscles. As your breathing rate increases, the amount of essential oxygen reaching the muscles rises. A safe warm-up for a FM, CMP or CFS patient might be a brisk walk or a short swim. The warm up should not last more than 10 minutes and it shouldn't be too taxing. If your level of fitness is somewhat low or severe pain is experienced, you need to ease up.

Stretch slowly and gently: Slow gentle stretching helps to relax the muscles of the body. FM & other chronic pain sufferers who use sudden or jerky movements or over-stretch can find themselves in increased pain, muscle strain and even muscle tears. All stretches should be done as if in slow motion and as smoothly as possible.

Don‘t stretch further than is comfortable: Over-stretching is one of the main causes of muscle strains and tears and so it is important that each muscle is only stretched as far as is comfortable. If you overdo it you can cause the tendons and ligaments attached to the muscle to spontaneously contract which can be painful, to say the least and can cause permanent damage. Stretching should never be painful.

Practice breath control while stretching: Many people tend to hold their breath when stretching and don't even realize it. Holding your breath can cause the muscles to tense and stretching a tight muscle can lead to injury, especially in FM, CMP & CFS sufferers who already have tense and painful muscles. The amount of oxygen and nutrients needed will be greatly depleted if you hold your breath and the muscles will develop excessive lactic acid which is very painful. So make sure you BREATHE!

Doing it Right: Each stretch should be held for around 30 seconds for the maximum effect. Anything less than this will not provide a sufficient length of time for the muscle to relax and lengthen. Each muscle group needs to be stretched a minimum of two or three times in rotation as well. Chronic pain sufferers may have trouble stretching to this extent in the beginning. You should only stretch until you start to feel uncomfortable. Even if you can only handle a few minutes at first, it will be worth it. You will gradually be able to increase the time and hopefully even the rotations. Do a LITTLE every day so you don’t end up in so much pain, you that you can’t stretch the next day.

I believe you will be amazed at the benefits of stretching when done properly! I sure was! I can do more and I feel better after a good stretch in the morning. It also helps me relax at night.

Author's Bio: 

Erica Thompson is a 40-year-old, Stay-at-Home mom with 3 children and a husband in the military. She was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 1995, but suffered from it many years prior to diagnosis and later, diagnosed with Chronic Myofascial Pain, IBS, RLS, migraine & more. She has done extensive research and is an expert based on her own experience, her mother's and her grandmother's. Her goal is to help chronic pain sufferers.

Website: Fibromyalgia Help 4 US