Br J Sports Med 41:392-397 doi:10.1136/bjsm.2006.033985
  • Original article

Ice-water immersion and delayed-onset muscle soreness: a randomised controlled trial

  1. Kylie Louise Sellwood1,
  2. Peter Brukner2,
  3. David Williams2,
  4. Alastair Nicol2,
  5. Rana Hinman2
  1. 1Sports Physicians ACT, Deakin, Australia
  2. 2University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr K L Sellwood
 Sports Physicians ACT, Deakin, ACT 2600, Australia; kyliesellwood{at}
  • Accepted 9 January 2007
  • Published Online First 29 January 2007


Objective: To determine if ice-water immersion after eccentric quadriceps exercise minimises the symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Design: A prospective randomised double-blind controlled trial was undertaken. 40 untrained volunteers performed an eccentric loading protocol with their non-dominant leg.

Interventions: Participants were randomised to three 1-min immersions in either ice water (5±1°C) or tepid water (24°C).

Main outcome measures: Pain and tenderness (visual analogue scale), swelling (thigh circumference), function (one-legged hop for distance), maximal isometric strength and serum creatine kinase (CK) recorded at baseline, 24, 48 and 72 h after exercise. Changes in outcome measures over time were compared to determine the effect of group allocation using independent t tests or Mann–Whitney U tests.

Results: No significant differences were observed between groups with regard to changes in most pain parameters, tenderness, isometric strength, swelling, hop-for-distance or serum CK over time. There was a significant difference in pain on sit-to-stand at 24 h, with the intervention group demonstrating a greater increase in pain than the control group (median change 8.0 vs 2.0 mm, respectively, p = 0.009).

Conclusions: The protocol of ice-water immersion used in this study was ineffectual in minimising markers of DOMS in untrained individuals. This study challenges the wide use of this intervention as a recovery strategy by athletes.


  • Published Online First 29 January 2007

  • Competing interests: None declared.

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