What you are stretching might not be muscle and could be making your pain worse: pain management

I hear this all the time, whether it be in a class I’m teaching or a student next to me while I’m practicing on the mat. “This is such a great stretch! I feel it all the way from my low back to my ankle.” Now, wait just a minute. Hold the phone.

There is no muscle that goes from your low back down to your ankle!!!
You are not “stretching” a muscle in this case. Most likely you are stretching a nerve. Nerves are like your tenacious little old lady next door. They are feisty, easy to piss off, and when you do they stay pissed off for a long time making your life miserable. However, if you are kind to them and show love, they will be your most loyal life long friend. Enough said. Please don’t stretch your nerves.

I had a patient come to the clinic with low back pain and nerve pain down the leg. She tried everything, including yoga, which she thought helped. However, that nagging ache and occasional shooting pains would not go away so she finally scheduled a visit with me.

It took awhile to really nail down what was going on. She was getting better, pain intensity and frequency were reducing, however occasionally after yoga she would have a really bad flare up that would linger for a few days. Because of this we started breaking down her yoga postures, the form and what she was feeling in each pose. Eventually we came to twisted triangle. Ends up she was twisting too much from the low back, and not enough through her stiff mid back. The excessive twist in her low back was causing a pinch on the nerve sending the sensation all the way from her low back to her ankle. She thought it was a stretch so she pushed harder- essentially making the nerve very angry. To heal we went over how to practice without the nerve sensation, and instead feel a muscle stretch. After this there rest of healing went smoothly.

I encourage you today to look at how you are moving and stretching and start noticing. For example, that hamstring stretch you feel all the way to your foot- not hamstring!!

It’s tricky! I get it. It’s why personally I move very slow in my yoga practice. Since I’m hyper mobile I want to ensure I’m really stabilizing and stretching where I need to stretch. If I move too quickly it’s easy to fall back to old patterns. Reply back- what do you think? Do you have a question about what you feel in a stretch? This is the way to ensure your yoga practice is really helping you instead of harming.



PS- A holiday gift for you! If you refer me a family member and/or friend and they become a patient you receive a free 60 Minute Massage! Enjoy! In the meantime watch this interview with Ashlee where we talk about the importance of women’s health, what it means, and balancing life as a mom and business owner:


Alison McLean

"I help the Entrepreneur reduce stress and live a more fulfilled and balanced life."