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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Mar 1;122(3):631-641. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00518.2016. Epub 2016 Aug 4.

A single dose of histamine-receptor antagonists before downhill running alters markers of muscle damage and delayed-onset muscle soreness.

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Department of Human Physiology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.
Department of Human Physiology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon


Histamine contributes to elevations in skeletal muscle blood flow following exercise, which raises the possibility that histamine is an important mediator of the inflammatory response to exercise. We examined the influence of antihistamines on postexercise blood flow, inflammation, muscle damage, and delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in a model of moderate exercise-induced muscle damage. Subjects consumed either a combination of fexofenadine and ranitidine (blockade, n = 12) or nothing (control, n = 12) before 45 min of downhill running (-10% grade). Blood flow to the leg was measured before and throughout 120 min of exercise recovery. Markers of inflammation, muscle damage, and DOMS were obtained before and at 0, 6, 12, 24, 48, and 72 h postexercise. At 60 min postexercise, blood flow was reduced ~29% with blockade compared with control (P < 0.05). Markers of inflammation were elevated after exercise (TNF-ɑ, IL-6), but did not differ between control and blockade. Creatine kinase concentrations peaked 12 h after exercise, and the overall response was greater with blockade (18.3 ± 3.2 kU·l-1·h-1) compared with control (11.6 ± 2.0 kU·l-1·h-1; P < 0.05). Reductions in muscle strength in control (-19.3 ± 4.3% at 24 h) were greater than blockade (-7.8 ± 4.8%; P < 0.05) and corresponded with greater perceptions of pain/discomfort in control compared with blockade. In conclusion, histamine-receptor blockade reduced postexercise blood flow, had no effect on the pattern of inflammatory markers, increased serum creatine kinase concentrations, attenuated muscle strength loss, and reduced pain perception following muscle-damaging exercise.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Histamine appears to be intimately involved with skeletal muscle during and following exercise. Blocking histamine's actions during muscle-damaging exercise, via common over-the-counter antihistamines, resulted in increased serum creatine kinase, an indirect marker of muscle damage. Paradoxically, blocking histamine's actions attenuated muscle strength loss and reduced perceptions of muscle pain for 72 h following muscle-damaging exercise. These results indicate that exercise-induced histamine release may have a broad impact on protecting muscle from exercise-induced damage.


antihistamines; delayed-onset muscle soreness; inflammation; muscle damage; recovery from exercise

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