Effect of Microcurrent Stimulation on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness: A Double-Blind Comparison


OBJECTIVE: To examine the efficacy of microcurrent electrical neuromuscular stimulation (MENS) treatment on pain and loss of range of motion (ROM) associated with delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

DESIGN AND SETTING: We assigned subjects to 1 of 2 groups. Group 1 received treatment with microcurrent stimulation (200 muA, 30 Hz, for 10 minutes, then 100 muA, 0.3 Hz, for 10 minutes) 24, 48, and 72 hours after DOMS induction. Group 2 served as a sham group and was treated using a machine altered by the manufacturer so that no current could flow through the electrodes.

SUBJECTS: DOMS was induced in the biceps brachii of the nondominant arm of 18 subjects (3 males, 15 females: age = 20.33 +/- 2.3 years, ht = 170.81 +/- 7.3 cm, wt = 69.61 +/- 13.1 kg). Dominance was defined as the arm used by the subject to throw a ball.

MEASUREMENTS: Subjective pain and active elbow extension ROM were evaluated before and after treatment each day. Two methods were used to assess pain: constant pressure using a weighted Orthoplast sphere and full elbow extension to the limit of pain tolerance. Subjective pain was measured with a graphic rating scale and active elbow extension ROM using a standard, plastic, double-armed goniometer. Three repeated-measures ANOVAs (between-subjects variable was group, within- subjects variables were day and test) were used to assess ROM and pain scores for the 2 groups.

RESULTS: We found no significant difference in the measurement of subjective pain scores or elbow extension ROM when the MENS group was compared with the sham group.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that the MENS treatment, within the parameters used for this experiment, was not effective in reducing the pain or loss of ROM associated with delayed-onset muscle soreness.

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Published in Journal of Athletic Training, v. 34, no. 4, p. 334–337.