Ice-water immersion and delayed-onset muscle soreness: a randomised controlled trial

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Abstract

Objective:

To determine if ice-water immersion after eccentric quadriceps exercise minimises the symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Design:

A prospective randomised double-blind controlled trial was undertaken. 40 untrained volunteers performed an eccentric loading protocol with their non-dominant leg.

Design:

Interventions: Participants were randomised to three 1-min immersions in either ice water (5±1°C) or tepid water (24°C).

Main outcome measures:

Pain and tenderness (visual analogue scale), swelling (thigh circumference), function (one-legged hop for distance), maximal isometric strength and serum creatine kinase (CK) recorded at baseline, 24, 48 and 72 h after exercise. Changes in outcome measures over time were compared to determine the effect of group allocation using independent t tests or Mann–Whitney U tests.

Results:

No significant differences were observed between groups with regard to changes in most pain parameters, tenderness, isometric strength, swelling, hop-for-distance or serum CK over time. There was a significant difference in pain on sit-to-stand at 24 h, with the intervention group demonstrating a greater increase in pain than the control group (median change 8.0 vs 2.0 mm, respectively, p = 0.009).

Conclusions:

The protocol of ice-water immersion used in this study was ineffectual in minimising markers of DOMS in untrained individuals. This study challenges the wide use of this intervention as a recovery strategy by athletes.

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