Lack of effect of acupuncture upon signs and symptms of delayed onset muscle soreness

P. Barlas, J. Robinson, GD. Baxter, JM. Allen
United Kingdom

The aim of the current study was to assess under single-blind placebo controlled conditions the effect of acupuncture upon experimentally-induced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Volunteers (n=48; 24M & 24F) were randomly allocated to one of four groups: Control (20 minutes rest), Placebo (minimal needling at non-acupuncture points), Treatment group 1 (acupuncture at classic acupuncture points) and Treatment group 2 (acupuncture at ‘tender’ points). DOMS was induced in the elbow flexors of the non-dominant arm using a standardised eccentric exercise regime. A range of measurements, including elbow range of movement (flexion, extension, relaxed angle), pain (VAS), tenderness and muscle performance (peak torque) were employed as indices of treatment efficacy.

Measurements of elbow range of movement and tenderness were made prior to DOMS induction on the first day, and repeated pre- and post-treatment on subsequent days; pain was assessed using visual analogue scales post-induction and post-treatment on the first day, and pre- and post-treatment thereafter. Peak torque was assessed pre- and post-treatment on the first, third and fifth day only. For all conditions, subjects rested supine for a period of 20 minutes, during which treatment was delivered according to group allocation.

Repeated measures and one-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) demonstrated no significant interactive (AB) effects, except for visual analogue scores (p=0.0483); one factor ANOVA on the second day of the experiment (pre-treatment) indicated significant differences between the Control and all other groups. However, such differences were not found on any other day of the experiment.

It is concluded that acupuncture has little effect upon the cardinal signs and symptoms of DOMS, at least under the conditions of the current experiment.