The efficacy of cryotherapy on recovery following exercise-induced muscle damage

Burgess, Theresa L.; Lambert, Michael I.
June 2010
International SportMed Journal;2010, Vol. 11 Issue 2, p258
Academic Journal
Cryotherapy is a popular recovery modality used to accelerate recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). However, there is equivocal evidence for the efficacy of the intervention. A computer-based literature search was undertaken. Primary research studies using healthy human participants were selected for the review. Cryotherapy interventions included ice massage, ice bag application, and cold water immersion of the limbs. EIMD was induced using high-velocity eccentric exercise protocols, repeated stretch shortening cycle exercise or intense training. Data were extracted on different methods of cold application and the effects on indirect markers of EIMD and functional recovery post-exercise. 13 studies were included. There were equivocal findings for the effects of cryotherapy on muscle soreness, range of movement (ROM), muscle function, and biochemical markers including plasma creatine kinase (CK) activity. Cryotherapy had no effect on post-exercise swelling or myoglobin levels. Decreases in selected pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, anabolic mediators, and catabolic markers were reported. Cryotherapy may have positive effects on the symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS); however, the influence on measurements of functional performance is unclear. There is currently inconclusive evidence to support the use of cryotherapy modalities in recovery from EIMD. Participants were generally healthy, physically active participants, and the application of these findings to enhancing recovery in elite athletes may be limited. Further studies are required to determine both acute and long-term effects of cryotherapy on recovery in elite athletes subjected to regular and intense training and competition.


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