Stretching & Muscle Soreness

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When I ran cross country in high school, I had a very… eclectic coach. He was a social studies teacher and very strong in his beliefs, so much so that he could become quite annoying to be around. At practice, he would tell us that there were absolutely no studies that suggested that stretching before exercise would either improve or impede your performance. He also told us after we won regionals that we didn’t run fast enough. To what standard he judged us on remains a mystery to this day.

But I realized from this that there is a lot of confusion as to the benefits of stretching before and after exercise, as well as why stretching is important, as I would guess most of you do not stretch before OR after you workout. So begins my hunt for data to bring stretching to light a little better.

What my research has told me is that I needed to narrow my search. There are so many conflicting studies about general stretching that I am going to have to break my research up a bit more in an effort to effectively get the answers I am looking for. I will break this series up in stretching after exercise and what it does for muscle soreness and injury prevention, what warming-up does for muscle soreness and injury prevention, the difference between static, dynamic, and PNF stretching and which should be done and when, and finally what stretching and flexibility does for the body. So without further ado, let’s talk about stretching post exercise for muscle soreness and injury prevention.

Journal of Athletic Training posted an article in 2005 based on research done at the University of Tampa in which several studies were cross referenced. Essentially, the findings showed that stretching, pre-exercise or post-exercise neither decrease post workout muscle soreness OR prevented injury, which certainly goes against my intuition. Therefore, I continued my research. I HAVE QUESTIONS. QUESTIONS THAT NEED ANSWERING.

The British medical journal did a systematic review in 2002 and failed to find any evidence that supports post workout stretching to decrease muscle soreness, or the pre-workout stretching reduces the risk of injury.

Another systematic review done in 2011 by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that based on current research, stretching does not significantly reduce muscle soreness (half point on a 100 point scale).

I did find a study that stated stretching actually INCREASED muscle soreness for those that don’t stretch often or at all, which comes as no surprise. When you provide the muscles to a new stimulus, of course there is going to be a little more soreness in the muscle because it has never experienced that stimulus.

The conclusion of several studies, many mentioned, and many others not mentioned simply because of repeated data, is that stretching is not going to make you any less sore after you work out. I know you are skeptical. Me too. I was biased in my research expecting to find the stuff that would suggest stretching does help with soreness but… It just does not. No study supports that claim.

Based on this, you might be asking yourself what the heck is even the point of stretching. I am. And THAT… Is a topic I am going to cover soon. But what I will say is that just because it won’t make you less sore does not make it any less important. In the meantime, what the heck DOES relieve muscle soreness?

No studies have shown that cryotherapy, stretching, homeopathy, ultrasound, and electric current modalities reduce muscles soreness based on an article on sports medicine published in 2003

In 2014 Physical Therapy in Sport included a study that suggests even ice baths were minimally effective at relieving post workout muscle soreness.

Consuming protein during recovery days can reduce post workout soreness by allowing the muscles to heal more efficiently.

The only sure thing that is going to make muscle soreness go away is patience and perseverance. When you get sore, it may take a couple of days for that feeling to go away. The more you exercise, the more your body will get used to a given stimulus, and the better your muscles will respond to your workouts. Then when you stop getting sore, it’s time to either up the intensity, or change up your workout.

Alright guys, I hope you learned something, I know I did, and if you did learn something, share this podcast in the place that you share things, be sure to check out my podcast here, follow me on Instagram @lifeandfitnesswithdbanks for motivation and tips, and as always, thanks for reading!

This is D. Banks signing off now, see you later.


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