Hyperbaric oxygen therapy does not affect recovery from delayed onset muscle soreness

I B Mekjavic, J A Exner, P A Tesch, O Eiken
Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2000, 32 (3): 558-63

PURPOSE: This study investigated whether hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) improves recovery after exercise-induced muscle injury.

METHODS: Healthy male subjects (N = 24) were randomly assigned to either a placebo group or a HBOT group. Subjects were tested for maximal isometric strength (preexercise) of their right elbow flexors. Each subject then completed a high-force eccentric workout of the elbow flexor muscle group to induce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). On the seven successive days after this workout, the subjects were exposed to a hyperbaric environment of 2.5 ATA for 60 min, inspiring either a normoxic mixture (P(I)O2 = 0.2 ATA; placebo group) or a hyperoxic gas mixture (P(I)O2 = 2.5 ATA; HBOT group). Before the eccentric workout and daily for the next 10 d, measurements were obtained regarding: maximal isometric muscle strength of the elbow flexor muscles, right upper arm circumferences, and rating of the perceived muscle soreness.

RESULTS: Isometric strength decreased significantly from preexercise levels of 25.1 +/- 3.8 kp to postexercise levels of 12.0 +/- 4.6 kp, for the HBOT group, and from 24.6 +/- 3.4 kp to 12.5 +/- 3.7 kp, respectively, for the placebo group. Over the 10-d recovery period, there was no difference in the rate of recovery of muscle strength between the two groups. Perceived soreness peaked at about 48 h after exercise with no difference between groups. Also, the exercise-induced increases in arm circumference were similar in the two groups.

CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that HBOT is not an effective therapy for the treatment of DOMS.

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