European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 113, Issue 10, pp 2577–2586 | Cite as

Effect of cryotherapy on muscle recovery and inflammation following a bout of damaging exercise

  • Naomi J. Crystal
  • David H. Townson
  • Summer B. Cook
  • Dain P. LaRocheEmail author
Original Article


The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of cryotherapy on the inflammatory response to muscle-damaging exercise using a randomized trial. Twenty recreationally active males completed a 40-min run at a −10 % grade to induce muscle damage. Ten of the subjects were immersed in a 5 °C ice bath for 20 min and the other ten served as controls. Knee extensor peak torque, soreness rating, and thigh circumference were obtained pre- and post-run, and 1, 6, 24, 48, and 72 h post-run. Blood samples were obtained pre- and post-run, and 1, 6 and 24 h post-run for assay of plasma chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2). Peak torque decreased from 270 ± 57 Nm at baseline to 253 ± 65 Nm post-run and increased to 295 ± 68 Nm by 72 h post-run with no differences between groups (p = 0.491). Soreness rating increased from 3.6 ± 6.0 mm out of 100 mm at baseline to 47.4 ± 28.2 mm post-run and remained elevated at all time points with no differences between groups (p = 0.696). CCL2 concentrations increased from 116 ± 31 pg mL−1 at baseline to 293 ± 109 pg mL−1 at 6 h post-run (control) and from 100 ± 27 pg mL−1 at baseline to 208 ± 71 pg mL−1 at 6 h post-run (cryotherapy). The difference between groups was not significant (p = 0.116), but there was a trend for lower CCL2 in the cryotherapy group at 6 h (p = 0.102), though this measure was highly variable. In conclusion, 20 min of cryotherapy was ineffective in attenuating the strength decrement and soreness seen after muscle-damaging exercise, but may have mitigated the rise in plasma CCL2 concentration. These results do not support the use of cryotherapy during recovery.


Eccentric exercise Downhill run Inflammation Chemokine ligand-2 



Plasma chemokine ligand 2


Delayed-onset muscle soreness


Maximal voluntary contraction


Visual analog scale for soreness



The authors would like to thank the subjects who participated in this study. This study was conducted with no external funding.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Naomi J. Crystal
    • 1
    • 3
  • David H. Townson
    • 2
  • Summer B. Cook
    • 1
    • 3
  • Dain P. LaRoche
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Robert Kertzer Exercise Physiology LaboratoryUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical SciencesUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of KinesiologyUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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