The effects of continuous external compression on delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

  • Jon Carling
  • Kennon Francis
  • Christopher Lorish


Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a sensation of soreness that develops 24–48 hr after intense unaccustomed exercise. Clinical characteristics of DOMS include local tissue edema, decreased muscle strength, and decreased range of motion. Although controversial, some research has implicated swelling as a cause or contributor to soreness. We designed this study to determine the effects of continuous external compression on swelling resulting from eccentric contraction and the accompanying clinical characteristics of DOMS. Twenty-three healthy college students (16 females, 7 males; X age=26.0 years) completed 70 maximal eccentric contractions of the elbow flexors to induce soreness and then received random assignment to either a control or a compression sleeve group. The compression sleeve group wore an elastic compression sleeve on the exercised arm, extending from the deltoid insertion to the wrist, throughout the study. We obtained measures of subjective soreness, range of motion (ROM), circumference, arm volume, and isokinetic peak torque for both groups immediately before exercise and 10 min and 24, 48, and 72 hr after exercise. No significant differences were present between groups at any time reference for any of the dependent variables. Soreness peaked at 48 hr and then began to decline. Circumference and volume measurements increased over time with the greatest difference occurring 72 hr postexercise. Subject's ROM and peak torque decreased immediately following exercise and continued to be lower than baseline during the next 72 hr. Continuous external compression, which prior research has shown to be an effective treatment of edema resulting from a variety of acute injuries, was not effective in reducing the edema associated with DOMS, nor was it effective in reducing soreness, strength loss, or ROM loss as a result of DOMS in elbow flexors. Therefore, the clinical use of compression garments in treating DOMS in upper extremities is questionable.

Key Words

muscle soreness swelling compression 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon Carling
    • 1
  • Kennon Francis
    • 1
  • Christopher Lorish
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Physical TherapyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirmingham

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