Alternative treatments for muscle injury: massage, cryotherapy, and hyperbaric oxygen

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Current evidence suggests that popular alternative therapies such as massage, cryotherapy, and hyperbaric oxygen exposure as currently practiced on humans have little effect on recovery from minor muscle damage such as induced by exercise. While further research is still needed, hyperbaric oxygen exposure shows clear promise for potentially being a successful adjunct treatment for enhancing muscle repair and recovery from more severe crush on contusion injury in humans. Cryotherapy or icing, as currently practiced, will not likely be successful in cooling muscle sufficiently to have any significant influence on muscle repair regardless of the degree of injury. However, based on studies in animal models, it may be that if sufficient muscle cooling could be achieved in humans, it could actually delay recovery and increase muscle scarring following significant muscle damage. Conclusions about the effectiveness of massage on influencing muscle recovery from more severe injury cannot yet be made due to a lack of experimental evidence with a more significant muscle damage model.

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Peter M. Tiidus declares that he has no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Peter M. Tiidus.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Muscle Injuries

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Tiidus, P.M. Alternative treatments for muscle injury: massage, cryotherapy, and hyperbaric oxygen. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med 8, 162–167 (2015).

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  • Muscle damage
  • Massage
  • Cryotherapy
  • Hyperbaric oxygen
  • Muscle repair