In the June issue of SIB we reported on a recent study which revealed that Ibuprofen can decrease the perception of muscle soreness induced after a bout of eccentric activity but cannot assist in restoring muscle function. Athletes can continue to train although their performance, at least at maximal levels, might not be as good as expected. Hot on the heels of that insightful piece of research comes the latest study from the US to review current thinking on the subject ('Treatment and Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness', Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Vol 17 (1) 197-208). Numerous strategies have been used to prevent DOMS and treat the subsequent symptoms. So let's look at the three main types of possible interventions.
DOMS treatment 1. Pharmacological â€“ using NSAIDs
Although the authors of the review agree that NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen have the potential to alleviate some of the symptoms of DOMS, they couldn't provide conclusive backing for the use of NSAIDs. The problem lies in the wide range in the dosage and mechanism of injury used in the studies reviewed. However, the current article does support the findings of the most recent study, reviewed in the June issue of SIB. The jury is still out but NSAIDs could be useful. We will have to keep an eye on the scientific journals for some more conclusive findings.
DOMS treatment 2. Therapeutic treatments â€“ using physical modalities
Treatment using conventional therapies, such as icing, massage or stretching also proved inconsistent. It was noted that acupuncture, herbal remedies and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (injured athletes breathe 100% oxygen) were of limited use. However, the review did indicate that of all the therapies examined, icing the affected area was the most effective.
DOMS treatment 3. Dietary â€“ using nutritional supplements
Additional supplementation with antioxidants (vitamins C and E) appears to be of little use and if you are thinking of topping up with supplements such as Arnica, Coenzyme-Q and L-Carnitine, the advice would be to save your money â€“ at least for the time being until some more research has been completed.
The study makes for fairly bleak reading. It would appear that we are still no closer to establishing a conclusive approach to the treatment of the symptoms of DOMS. In the interim, several possible treatments such as the use of NSAIDs and cryotherapy (icing) have the potential to help alleviate the pain associated with DOMS.
Until we have some definitive answers, athletes should try to ease into any unfamiliar exercises (especially if they have a heavy eccentric component) and failing that, if they fall foul of a case of DOMs, at least they know that with some appropriate rest and recovery, Mother Nature should take her course over 2-3 days and they'll be able to get back to their training, relatively pain-free.