Public Release: 

Stretching does not prevent muscle soreness

Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review

BMJ

Stretching before or after exercise does not prevent muscle soreness or reduce risk of injury, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Researchers in Australia reviewed five studies, involving 77 subjects, on the effect of stretching on muscle soreness. In all studies, participants were healthy young adults. Three studies evaluated stretching after exercising, and two evaluated stretching before exercising.

The studies showed that stretching reduces soreness by less than 2mm on a 100mm scale. Most athletes will consider effects of this magnitude too small to make stretching worthwhile, say the authors.

Stretching also does not produce useful reductions in injury, add the authors. Data from two studies on army recruits in training, whose risk of injury is high, show that muscle stretching prevents on average one injury every 23 years. Most athletes are exposed to lower risks of injury so the absolute risk reduction for most athletes is likely to be smaller still.

These findings are contrary to what many athletes and coaches believe and what is common practice, write experts in an accompanying editorial. Yet much of sport and exercise medicine and the management of musculoskeletal injury has developed empirically with little research evidence. The culture is changing, and this study makes a valuable contribution to the debate on stretching, they conclude.

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