T Nation

Stretching Pulled Muscles


I'm an athlete and usually no matter what sport I'm playing football, soccer, basketball, I hear lots of faulty advice given to fellow athletes from coaches who believe they know, because their coaches from 20 years ago told them so.

One of the most common mistakes I hear from the coaches are to stretch your pulled muscles. This seems counterintuitive though, because a pulled muscle is caused by extensive stretching of the muscle fibers in a short period of time.

Usually I'll pull the athlete aside and tell them to massage it, and then RICE it. But the coaches will come over throughout the course of practice and ensure themselves that the injured athlete is still stretching his pulled muscle.

Who is right here? And in your experience what's the quickest way to alleviate the pain from a pulled muscle?


It depends on the severity of the strain. If it was just recently strained, then no stretching, just RICE, no massage either most likely.

If it's somewhat healed, not always hurting and stretching doesn't aggravate the pain, then stretching is okay.

Massage is probably the best thing after the strain is basically not hurting at all and where there is a period of tightness or only lingering pain.


In general, I tell my athletes to avoid stretching when they have strained a muscle, mainly because I don't think that they would be able to determine what an appropriate intensity would be for stretching the injured muscle. In my experience, depending on the severity of the strain, some gentle stretching starting a day after the initial injury will not hinder the healing process.

I believe that the gentle stretching in fact helps align the muscle fibers that have received the micro-tears from the strain. Unless an athlete has been taught to limit themself to a gentle stretch, than I would just have them avoid stretching all together.

As the previous poster said, RICE is always good after activity, but some lower end/less intense dynamic ROM drills will help as well. For example, I wouldn't want them doing hard leg swings, but walking atlas lunges or walking knee to chest drills would probably help.

I really feel that too much "rest" is going to hinder the healing. Again, this is all depending on the severity of the injury.

Another big thing to look at is the antagonist muscle to the one that has been injured. For example, if you strain your hamstring, look at the hip flexor and quads. If they have a poor ROM, then the athlete more than likely has an anterior pelvic tilt.

That would result in a weaker hamstring and place the hamstring in a constant lengthened position. Stretch the quads and hip flexors and work on strengthening the hamstrings to fix that problem.



A week and a half ago I was testing my 40 yard for football and I started striding too far, and when I landed on my right leg my hamstring "popped" (it was loud and audible). Our trainer never really gave me an exact diagnosis, but I think it was a pull.

He did however tell me that I SHOULD stretch it because the muscle fibers would want to heal too tightly, and I would be predisposed to another injury there.

This is the first time I've ever really been injured badly, and I actually just started a little bit of jogging today (I did RICE for the first week or so). I also kind of believe too much rest is going to make it worse. Any more tips to a speedy recovery?