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J Sport Rehabil. 2018 Jun 28:1-19. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2017-0359. [Epub ahead of print]

Photobiomodulation Therapy is More Effective than Cryotherapy for Skeletal Muscle Recovery: A Critically Appraised Topic.

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1 Texas State University, San Marcos, TX.


Clinical Scenario: Cryotherapy is one of the most commonly used modalities for post-exercise muscle recovery despite inconsistencies in the literature validating its effectiveness. With the need to find a more effective modality, photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) has gained popularity because of recent research demonstrating its ability to accelerate the muscle recovery process. Focused Clinical Question: Is PBMT more effective than cryotherapy at reducing recovery time and decreasing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after strenuous exercise? Summary of Key Findings: Three moderate- to high quality double-blinded, randomized placebo-controlled trials and two low- to moderate quality translational studies performed on rats were included in this CAT. All 5 studies supported the use of PBMT over cryotherapy as a treatment for post-exercise muscle recovery following exercise. PBMT was superior in reducing creatine kinase, inflammation markers, and blood lactate compared to cryotherapy following strenuous/high intensity aerobic or strength muscular exercise. PBMT was also shown to improve post-exercise muscle performance and function more than cryotherapy. Clinical Bottom Line: There is moderate evidence to suggest the use of PBMT over cryotherapy post-exercise to enhance muscle recovery in trained and untrained athletes. Shorter recovery times and increased muscle performance can be seen 24 to 96 hours following PBMT application. Strength of Recommendation: Based on consistent findings from all 5 studies, there is grade B evidence to support the use of PBMT over cryotherapy for more effective post-exercise recovery of skeletal muscle performance.


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