Stretching after exercise helps heal

Stretching impacts inflammation resolution in Connective Tissue – Free full text – /PMC5222602/Jul 2017

I’m encouraged to learn that stretching has been shown to be very beneficial for sore muscles. not before exercise, but afterward.


Acute inflammation is accompanied from its outset by the release of specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs), including resolvins, that orchestrate the resolution of local inflammation.

We showed earlier that, in rats with subcutaneous inflammation of the back induced by carrageenan, stretching for 10 minutes twice daily reduced inflammation and improved pain, two weeks after carrageenan injection.  

In this study, we hypothesized that stretching of connective tissue activates local pro-resolving mechanisms within the tissue in the acute phase of inflammation.

Furthermore, subcutaneous resolvin injection mimicked the effect of stretching.

In ex vivo experiments, stretching of connective tissue reduced the migration of neutrophils and increased tissue RvD1 concentration.

These results demonstrate a direct mechanical impact of stretching on inflammation-regulation mechanisms within connective tissue.

This clearly points to the benefits of stretching sore muscles after a workout or just regular use, perhaps even more than anti-inflammatory drugs.


It is now well established that acute inflammation is accompanied by an active program of resolution that begins in the first few hours after the onset of inflammation.

it is also important to understand naturally occurring mechanisms that might enhance the resolution of inflammation without the use of drugs, one of which being physical activity, particularly stretching.

Recent research in our laboratory using rodent models has begun to suggest a link between stretching and the resolution of inflammation within connective tissue.

we found that stretching for 10 minutes twice a day improved both gait and pain sensitivity and decreased inflammatory infiltration within the subcutaneous lesion.


The results of this study show that stretching decreases carrageenan-induced inflammation, and the similar effects of active and passive stretching suggest a mechanical effect on the tissues.

Humans and animals spontaneously stretch after waking, or spending time in a fixed position, and the reasons for this universal behavior are not fully known.

Both stretching exercises, as well as exercises with a prominent stretching component (e.g. yoga, Tai Chi) have been found to decrease levels of circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines.

…the results of the current study suggest that stretching exercises may have a direct pro-resolution impact within local connective tissues.

The influence of mechanical forces within connective tissue is potentially far-reaching since connective tissue plays multiple roles in the body:

  • as part of the musculoskeletal system, connective tissue forms continuous, compliant layers that can both stretch and bear loads;
  • as part of the immune system, connective tissue is both the “container” for immune exchanges throughout the body, as well as the “conduit” through which water, proteins and immune cells return to the blood via lymphatics

I’m increasingly amazed at the importance of connective tissues in our bodies. Originally thought of as mere inactive “containers” of body parts, new evidence suggests that connective tissues play a part in many different types of chemical interactions.

Given these multiple roles, it is plausible that body movements could influence immune-related processes through a cross-talk between resident stromal cells and circulating immune cells.

Alternatively stretch-induced reduction of neutrophil infiltration of tissue (in vivo) and neutrophil migration (ex vivo) may be due to mechanisms independent of SPMs such as physical alteration of the connective tissue matrix.

This makes me wonder how much else might be influenced by physical movement. The “connective tissue matrix” seems to connect the most far-flung biological pieces of our bodies, keeping them all in communication.

In summary,

  • stretching decreased acute inflammation (in vivo),
  • reduced neutrophil migration (ex vivo), and
  • increased connective tissue pro-resolving mediators (in vivo and ex vivo).

These results reveal important new interactions between musculoskeletal and immune systems that could potentially be used therapeutically.

This makes me think that perhaps some kind of physical movement or strain could have an effect on the defective collagen of EDS.

Other thoughts?

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