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Can heat prevent delayed onset muscle soreness?

Can heat prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)?

Firstly what are DOMS? This is the muscle ache that you feel after a hard session and is the muscle ache experienced from the buildup of lactate (waste products in the muscles).

This study looked at what happened to the body by applying a continuous low level heat wrap to muscle ache in the lower back caused by exercise. Although looking at the lower back it can be used almost anywhere on the body.

"continuous low-level heat wrap therapy was of significant benefit in the prevention and early phase treatment of DOMS"

In this study 67 athletes, with no prior pain or medical conditions, were split into two groups

  1. Prevention
  2. Treatment

Within the two groups they were split down further

  1. Prevention
    1. Heat
    2. Stretches (Control)
  2. Treatment
    1. Heat
    2. Ice (Control)

Each group then performed a training program that focused on working the lower back muscles.

The study found that 57% of the prevention group found that, 24 hours later,  there was a reduction in muscle soreness after exercise if they used heat before the training program. Showing that using heat before you train. In the treatment group applying heat to an area of muscle pain after 24 hours showed that the effects were 138% greater than using ice. So it looks like for muscle pain 24 hours after exercise you are better to use heat.

The full article can be accessed through this link.


John M. Mayer, DC, PhD, Vert Mooney, MD, Leonard N. Matheson, PhD, Geetha N. Erasala, MS, Joe L. Verna, DC, Brian E. Udermann, PhD, Scott Leggett, MS. (2006) Continuous Low-Level Heat Wrap Therapy for the Prevention and Early Phase Treatment of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness of the Low Back: A Randomized Controlled Trial. VOLUME 87, ISSUE 10, P1310-1317, OCTOBER 01, 2006

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