You finish a workout, you have a stretch and then you go home. Great, right? But do you know why you stretched? There is a lot of myths around stretching.  “I think it is because I didn’t stretch enough” is a common statement when people present to physiotherapy clinics with a sports injury. Aaron Hardaker, Director of Mid North Coast Physio, caught up with Physiotherapist (and Level 2 Weightlifting Coach) Julian White to discuss some of the common myths around stretching, and what the research really says.

I’ve just finished a big personal training session at Coffs Coast Health Club. Will stretching help me to be able to climb stairs tomorrow?

Sadly, probably not. While people often stretch after a training session to try and alleviate delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), the research suggests stretching before or after a workout (or game) will not make much of a difference. (1) You’re still likely to feel sore, meaning those stairs may still be a problem!

Is there anything I can do to stop delayed onset muscle soreness?

There is no “cure” for DOMS. Things that can help are:

  • An active recovery (continued low intensity physical activity, like walking in a pool)
  • Remedial massage
  • Cold-water immersion.

Ideally, you should be careful with big changes in your training intensity, as that’s where you’ll get the most soreness and the highest risk of injury. The more conditioned you are, the less you’ll hurt the next day.

Will stretching stop me from getting injuries?

A review in the most recent British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at injury prevention for lower limb sporting injuries. The most effective components that reduced injury risk were strength and balance training. The authors stated the following regarding stretching: “stretching added no beneficial effect in decreasing sports injuries. Several other studies also found limited evidence to support the benefits of stretching before or after training for injury prevention.” (2) So, whether you’re coming back from injury or trying to keep yourself on the field, there’s a lot more to injury prevention than just doing a couple of stretches.

Are you saying people should stop stretching?

Not at all. Stretching still has plenty of use in physiotherapy, sports and regular training. What is most important is that you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you want to step up your training, minimise your risk of injury and feel good – get some qualified advice to set you on the right path.  Come in and speak to myself or one of our other physiotherapists to find out what the best plan is for you.  We can help you set your goals, and work with you to build a plan to get there.

Thanks Julian.  If you want to understand how to best utilise stretching to look after your body, Mid North Coast Physio offers a FREE Physio Assessment to understand your needs and provide you with a clear recommended plan of action.  Call 1300 27 37 47 or go to here make a booking now.


References: (1) D Herbert, Robert & De Noronha, Marcos & Kamper, Steven. (2011). Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)

(2) Brunner R, Friesenbichler B, Casartelli NC, et al. Effectiveness of multicomponent lower extremity injury prevention programmes in team-sport athletes: an umbrella review. Br J Sports Med 2019; 53:282-288.

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