High-intensity exercise induces muscle soreness, especially with unaccustomed muscle work. Muscle soreness commonly occurs within 24 hours, reaching a peak between 24 and 72h after the exercise bout. It is associated with muscle swelling, inflammation, pain and weakness, factors that could interfere with daily activities, training and increase the risk of injuries.
Acupuncture is one of the best known traditional Chinese medicines and has been widely used to help recovery from muscle related injuries and muscle soreness.
A recent meta-analysis has investigated the literature in order to find if it is useful to prevent or alleviate the acute effects of exercise.
From 32 potential articles only 6 complied with the inclusion criteria. They used a total of 210 healthy participants, aged from 10 to 40 years old (72% male, 28% female). The main results were:
- Acupuncture alleviated muscle soreness rating, specially 24 and 72h after exercise.
- The serum levels of creatine-kinase are used as an indicator of inflammation and muscle damage, as their levels increase after intense exercise. Acupuncture decreased levels of creatine-kinase 24, 48 and 72h after exercise.
- No difference was found in the pressure pain threshold, defined as the minimum force applied which induces pain, between control or acupuncture-treated individuals.
- Maximum isometric voluntary force was improved with acupuncture after 72h.
The results were limited due to the small number of studies, different acupuncture methods (needles and laser) and different application points.
- Acupuncture seems to alleviate the delayed onset of muscle soreness and improve muscle recovery and performance after intense exercise.
- The effects of acupuncture started from 24h reaching a peak 72h after exercise.
- No adverse effects have been recorded to date.
Did you have the chance to include acupuncture in your recovery? Does it work?
Does Acupuncture Benefit Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness After Strenuous Exercise? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Huang C, Wang Z, Xu X, Hu S, Zhu R and Chen X (2020) Front. Physiol. 11:666. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.00666