Sports massage therapists are well acquainted with clients’ muscle soreness and fatigue after exercise. In addition to massage, many other strategies are in use with the intention of preventing or minimizing delayed onset muscle soreness and fatigue after exercise.
“Cold-water immersion, in water temperatures of less than 15°C, is currently one of the most popular interventional strategies used after exercise,” noted investigators who recently completed a literature review on this topic.
The investigators set out to determine the effects of cold-water immersion in the management of muscle soreness after exercise.
Selection criteria: randomized and quasi-randomized trials comparing the effect of using cold-water immersion after exercise with:
• passive intervention (rest/no intervention)
• contrast immersion
• warm-water immersion
• active recovery,
• compression; or
• a different duration/dosage of cold-water immersion.
Primary outcomes were pain (muscle soreness) or tenderness (pain on palpation), and subjective recovery (return to previous activities without signs or symptoms).
The investigators concluded, “There was some evidence that cold-water immersion reduces delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise compared with passive interventions involving rest or no intervention … While the evidence shows that cold-water immersion reduces delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise, the optimum method of cold-water immersion and its safety are not clear.”