Benefits Range From Extending Range of Motion to Fighting Aging
After working as a cardiac professional at Kennestone Hospital, a job that had her standing for hours, Susan Black decided to switch careers. She’s still helping people get healthier, but through a method that she says is the key to defying aging: stretching.
It’s the one void in health care that hasn’t been addressed, according to Susan, who owns several franchises of Stretch Zone, including the most recent one she’s opened in Kennesaw.
“Stretching is something we all know to do, but we don’t do it enough or properly,” she said. “It’s the best anti-aging routine you can do for yourself.”
Susan discovered the benefits of stretching after a year and a half of treating a frozen shoulder through more traditional methods. Her healing caused her to look further into the science behind stretching, and that’s when she discovered Stretch Zone.
“Now, more than ever, people realize the importance of staying healthy and moving,” she said. “You don’t have to live with stiffness. It’s not a normal aging process and can be reversed. Through proper stretching, you prevent injury, recover quicker from an injury and are able to keep your body in motion, relieve stress, correct posture issues and pain, and, most of all, stay young!”
In fact, her oldest client is 102 years old; her youngest is 14.
Stretch Mind and Body
At Stretch Zone, practitioners gradually increase the range of motion by manipulating muscles with neuromuscular behavior. The stretch reflex is adjusted, so the clients feel lighter and younger, experience enhanced athletic performance, get relief from stiffness and soreness, and fight the aging process.
The neuromuscular science behind stretching involves retraining the brain to allow the muscles to move past their comfort level. With an injury, the brain sends signals to guard the affected area. With coaxing, improvements will come, as the person learns to push past the discomfort, in a guided and supervised way, to promote healing through stretching.
For older people, the improvements can make a big difference in their quality of life. Stretching has restored simple functions, such as maintaining muscle and reducing fall risks, Susan said.
The process is gradual. Clients stretch out on a specially made bed, equipped with patented straps that allow the client to relax fully and the practitioner to immobilize areas not being worked on, to properly isolate and target each muscle group.
A routine has been set up to assure the client that the stretch won’t go too far. The methodology is called 3, 5, 7.
“We tell them, when they first start to feel the stretch, to say 3,” Susan said. “Then, we release the stretch and tell them when they feel it stretch a little more, say 5. We release, and then go for a deep stretch, when they say 7. It’s important for them to know we’ll never reach a 10 during a session. We work every major muscle … You are in control of your stretch.”
This procedure was developed to help stretch practitioners understand each client’s level of discomfort, and to not push past that. Each practitioner is certified through a national board, and all have previous experience in body care, from personal training to chiropractic.
Who Can Benefit?
The short answer is everyone can benefit from stretching, according to Susan. Perhaps the people who need it most are those who stand on their feet all day (health care workers, hair stylists), push their bodies to the limit (athletes) or find themselves repeating the same motions day after day (working at a desk, on computers, etc.). Golfers, pickleball players and athletes, from high school to professionals, see huge gains in their range of motion, improvements in their game and a reduction in injury risks.
“I used to work with a personal trainer who’d stretch us afterward,” Susan said. “I never developed soreness, thanks to stretching. I’d work out because I wanted to get stretched. A lot of the testimony we hear is from golfers who say how it’s helped improve their game.”
Among the benefits are: pain relief from sciatica and plantar fasciitis; balance can be strengthened; poor posture can be corrected. Improvements in these areas often can prevent surgery.
For prospective clients, the first stretch is free. An assessment is made, and a plan is developed to address each individual’s needs. Insurance isn’t accepted, but payments from health savings accounts are welcome. The cost of each visit is comparable to a copay for a physician. Susan wants to work with corporate clients as well, to bring health and wellness, and to help employee retention.
Susan opened her first Stretch Zone in Woodstock in March 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down everything. Despite that, her business grew, and now she has eight franchises. The company has 200 locations nationwide, averaging two to three new stores a week. Brand ambassador Drew Brees has eight locations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“It’s not a trend, and it’s not boutique fitness,” she said. “It’s the one void in health care that’s never been addressed. There really is a need.”