Research Review by Dr. Shawn Thistle©



Study Title:

Managing delayed-onset muscle soreness: Lack of effect of selected oral systemic analgesics


Barlas P, Craig JA, Robinson J, Walsh DM, Baxter GD, Allen JM

Publication Information:

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2000; 81: 966-972..


The goal of this study was to investigate the efficacy of commonly used analgesics (pain killers) in the management of delayed-onset muscle soreness (muscle soreness that occurs 24-72 hours after strenuous physical activity). 60 subjects with no arm pain or other pathology were randomly allocated to one of five experimental groups: control (no medication); placebo; aspirin (900 mg); codeine (60 mg); and paracetamol (1000 mg).

Muscle soreness was induced in the non-dominant arm elbow flexors (bicep) using a standard eccentric exercise protocol. Main outcome measures included range of movement, mechanical pain threshold, and a visual analogue scale - each measured before ingestion of medication, and 90 minutes after to determine any effect. Each subject attended 11 sessions over two weeks.

Conclusions & Practical Application:

Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common occurrence in people undertaking strenuous exercise. DOMS involves tenderness and mild swelling of a muscle that tends to limit range of motion. It generally occurs within 48 hours of exercise and can last for up to three days (sometimes longer). The exact pathology of this phenomenon remains undetermined, as does the most appropriate and effective treatment.

Many of the analgesics used in this study are marketed for the treatment of virtually "any pain". The results of this study fail to support the use of ANY of the medications for decreasing DOMS pain.

The authors correctly state, these results are only applicable for the doses used in this study. Future research should elucidate whether increasing the doses would be beneficial and investigate other methods of treatment for this condition.