Stretching is the new massage.
Yes, you read that right. We don’t mean simply sitting on your living room floor aiming to touch your toes or doing arm circles when you’re feeling stiff. While those practices can certainly loosen you up, the long-term benefits pale in comparison to the latest wellness trend taking over: assisted stretching.
In assisted stretching, a trained therapist or practitioner uses various techniques to evaluate a client’s range of motion and apply movement and flexibility practices that a client wouldn’t be able to do on their own. Assisted stretching can be done at traditional physical therapy clinics, but lately, there’s been an influx of dedicated flexibility studios popping up across the country, including in KC.
Kelly Harrick owns the five local branches of Stretch Zone. She was a physical therapist for twenty-eight years before opening the first Stretch Zone clinic in Lenexa in June of 2019.
It’s not just your hard-core athletes like triathlon warriors that Harrick sees in her studios. Her clientele runs the gamut from those who’ve gardened their way into lower back pain and dancers who need extra assisted stretching time outside of practice to weekend pickleball players and retired college athletes.
“After age thirty, we lose one percent of our flexibility and range of motion every year,” Harrick says. At Stretch Zone, her team provides an initial evaluation before clients enter a stretching program specific to their needs. “Clients come in and lay on the table—we have special tables with stabilization straps—and we provide a thirty-minute stretch.”
Biagio Mazza, a physical therapist who owns Leawood’s Elite Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy, adds that because we are more sedentary now than ever, it’s imperative that we keep our bodies in motion.
“We essentially have the same bodies that we did ten thousand years ago,” he says. “But they were hunters and gatherers who were moving all day long and doing different activities. In an ideal world, people would be a lot more open and available to preventative-type activity versus reactive activity, which can involve stretching.”
Harrick tells the story of a woman who came into a Stretch Zone studio looking to improve her range of motion and endurance. “She came in before she was going to take her grandkids to Disney World. She’s like, ‘I’m not gonna be able to do this.’” Three months of assisted stretching made all the difference: The client returned after her trip and told Harrick that she did great at Disney World and the family didn’t have to cut any of their days short because of her.
“That quality time that she was able to spend with her grandchildren? This happened all because she added stretching to her life,” Harrick says.
Four common stretching techniques.
Active Stretching: You use your own body weight to create a stretch. For example, lay on your back and lift a leg straight up into the air to stretch your hamstrings.
Passive Stretching: Somebody else or an object, like a prop or a band, dictates the stretch.
Ballistic Stretching: You move back and forth in and out of a stretch without holding it.
Static Stretching: You hold a stretch for a period of time, usually between ten and thirty seconds.