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Phys Ther Sport. 2008 Aug;9(3):148-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2008.06.001. Epub 2008 Jul 22.

Contrast therapy--a systematic review.

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Health & Rehabilitation Research Centre, AUT University, Private Bag 92006, Auckland 1142, New Zealand.


Contrast therapy is a strategy that is widely utilised in a number of sporting codes to aid recovery. This wide use might suggest that contrast therapy is an effective recovery modality however support for this assumption appears to be mainly anecdotal. The purpose of this paper is to review the efficacy of contrast therapy. To achieve this objective, a systematic review of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that have specifically evaluated the therapeutic efficacy of contrast therapy was performed. A search to identify appropriate literature was conducted across a number of electronic databases. The titles and abstracts of the papers identified were reviewed to select papers specifically relating to contrast therapy. Twelve RCTs met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The PEDro Scale, a systematic tool used to critique RCTs, was employed to critique the methodological quality of these studies. This review highlights both the lack in quantity and quality of research regarding the efficacy of contrast therapy for sports recovery. There appears to be insufficient evidence that contrast therapy aids in recovery and the limited methodological quality of the reviewed studies makes it difficult to draw clear conclusions about this form of therapy. Future research needs to re-examine the use of contrast therapy and in particular whole body immersion recovery strategies within the appropriate sports setting. This research will need to be of sufficient quality to enable appropriate conclusions to be made with regards to its use as a recovery strategy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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