There is often confusion about the difference between warming up prior to massage work or sports participation and stretching exercises. The purpose of warming up is to put your muscles and joints through their range of motion before you stress them in your work activities. This reduces your risk for injury.
Stretching, on the other hand, is designed to maintain and/or increase the length of your muscles, and is most effective when you have recently used your muscles to do an activity. Both warming up and stretching increase blood flow to your muscles.
Because your muscle tissue is not as pliable first thing in the morning due to lack of adequate circulation, it is better to do specific stretching exercises later in the day to get a more effective stretch.
Reproduced with permission from Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists, 2nd Edition , C.E.A.S., and Richard W. Goggins, C.P.E., L.M.P., © 2008 Gilded Age Press, www.saveyourhands.com.