Many people stretch prior to or after engaging in physical activities such as sport. Usually the purpose is to reduce the risk of injury, reduce soreness after exercise, or enhance athletic performance. This review looked at the effects of stretching on muscle soreness only.
The review located 12 relevant randomised controlled studies looking at the effect of stretching before or after physical activity on muscle soreness. Eleven studies were small with between 10 to 30 people being allocated stretching exercises. In contrast, one study was large with 2337 participants, 1220 of whom were in the stretching group. Ten studies were conducted in laboratories using standardised exercises. The only two studies, which included the only large study, were so-called field-based studies. These examined the effect of stretching on muscle soreness associated with self-selected physical activity. The studies were of low to moderate quality. Some of the studies examined the effects of stretching before physical activity, some examined the effects of stretching after physical activity, and some examined effects of stretching both before and after physical activity.
The studies produced very consistent findings. They showed there was little or no effect of stretching on the muscle soreness experienced in the week after the physical activity.