In spite of my strong general skepticism about stretching, I wouldn’t hesitate to do some for a strained muscle. It’s hardly a big commitment to stretch one muscle a little. If you are gentle, it won’t do any harm. And, as with gentle contraction of the muscle, stretching may help cue healing mechanisms in your muscle to lay down new connective tissue in an tidier way. And this idea is supported by a little shred of evidence from 2004 Malliaropoulos et al that showed that about 40 strained Greek athletes who stretched recovered faster than those who didn’t. How much faster? They regained their range of motion about 22% sooner, and their “rehabilitation period” was about 12% shorter. The researchers reported that this was of “great importance in treating muscle strain injuries.”
I’m not quite that thrilled by those numbers — they’re good, not great. It’s also probably the only study of its kind, and I don’t particularly trust it. But it is promising data that provides a solid reason to experiment with rehab stretching. I do hope it’s true, even if it’s not of “great importance”!
“The role of stretching in rehabilitation of hamstring injuries: 80 athletes follow-up”