The Basic Principles
Stretching is very similar to range of motion accept the animal is holding a stretch for a minimum length of time.
When a stretch is performed, a contraction of the antagonist muscles (the relaxing muscle) occurs to allow for the agonist muscle (the contracting muscle) to get into the right position for a stretch. Although initially the targeted muscle is contracted in order to protect the muscle and tendons, muscle spindles stop the muscle from getting longer. However, these can be overridden using the Golgi tendon organs by performing the stretch slowly. As the Golgi tendon organs are responsible for relaxing the muscle when they sense a change in tension in the muscle. This is what allows the muscle to stretch.
Improving Neurological Function
Stretching can be used to improve neurological function, the Golgi tendon organs are activated. These are responsible for sending messages to the brain. Like with exercises, and heat and cold therapy, the more the brain is challenged the better the nerves are at detecting stimulation and sending the messages to the brain. However, it is important to consult me or another physio before carrying out stretching to ensure it is performed safely and does not result in injury to you or your animal.
Reducing the Risk of Muscle Knots
Stretching can be used to reduce the chance of forming painful knots within the muscle. Due to the lengthening of the muscle during a stretch, it places minor stress on the muscle fibers to tell the brain to send healing cells to the area and stops the muscle from being stuck in contracture.