This investigation examined the effect of a counterirritant on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Fourteen female subjects had DOMS induced in the elbow flexor muscles of the nondominant arm through repeated eccentric contractions. Subjects returned 48 hrs after exercise and were randomly assigned to either a counterirritant ointment (CO) or placebo ointment (PO) treatment group. They were asked to quantify the amount of pain they experienced using a graphic pain rating scale while attempting to extend their elbow. Eight ml of the counterirritant or placebo ointment was applied to the anterior aspect of the arm centered directly over the biceps brachii. Pain and range of motion measurements were taken both pretreatment and 15 minutes posttreatment. Analysis of variance revealed that the CO group experienced significant pain relief and increased range of motion while the placebo group showed no significant changes. These findings suggest that counterirritants may be an effective means of treating the pain and restricted range of motion associated with delayed onset muscle soreness.
At the time of this study both authors were with the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903. Scott Haynes is now with the Physical Therapy Program, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716.