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J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Oct;14(8):1011-6. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0173.

Effects of acupuncture on symptoms and muscle function in delayed-onset muscle soreness.

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Department of Sports Medicine, Goethe-University, Frankfurt/Main, Germany.



This study was done to investigate the effects of a standardized acupuncture treatment on symptoms and muscle function in exercise-induced delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).


A prospective, randomized, controlled, observer and subject-blinded trial was undertaken. Twenty-two (22) healthy subjects (22-30 years; 10 males and 12 females) were randomly assigned to three treatment groups: real acupuncture (deep needling at classic acupuncture points and tender points; n = 7), sham-acupuncture (superficial needling at nonacupuncture points; n = 8), and control (no needling; n = 7). DOMS of the nondominant elbow-flexors was experimentally induced through eccentric contractions until exhaustion. The outcome measures were pain perception (visual analogue scale; VAS; range: 0-10 cm), mechanical pain threshold (MPT; pressure algometer), and maximum isometric voluntary force (MIVF; force transducer). Treatment was applied immediately, 24 and 48 hours after DOMS induction. Measurements of MPT and MIVF were made prior to DOMS induction as well as before and after every treatment session. VAS data were acquired after DOMS induction as well as pre- and post-treatment. Final pain, MPT, and MIVF measurements were performed 72 hours after DOMS induction.


Following nonparametric testing, there were no significant differences between groups in outcome measures at baseline. After 72 hours, pain perception (VAS) was significantly lower in the acupuncture group compared to the sham acupuncture and control subjects. However, the mean MPT and MIVF scores were not significantly different between groups.


Although acupuncture seemed to have no effects on mechanical pain threshold and muscle function, it proved to reduce perceived pain arising from exercise-induced muscle soreness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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