Reduce Exercise Fatigue With Compression & Cold Therapy

runner wearing compression socks

A Review by Alyssa Bialowas

The typical muscle pain that occurs after exercise results from small tears in the fibers of the connective tissues in your body. There are common practices to help re-circulate blood flow and deliver nutrients to the damaged tissue to ease pain and recovery time. Two common ways to reduce negative side effects of tissue damage are compression therapy and cold therapy.

Compression (wearing compression garments) is shown to improve blood flow of oxygen rich blood back to the body. Cold therapy has been shown to constrict blood vessels and aids in rapidly flushing toxins from the muscles.

The combination of these two treatments has yet to be fully examined, and a team of American researchers set out to find out if cryocompression (compression therapy and cold therapy combined) influenced recovery time following a bout of heavy resistance exercise. Successful resistance exercise training programs will incorporate efficient recovery practices for athletes to reach their peak performance.

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The Study

Sixteen healthy men who had been practicing heavy resistance exercise training for at least twice a week for 6 months were recruited to participate in this study. Baseline measurements were obtained, such as height, body mass, strength, power, and reaction time. Participants were then randomly assigned to either the control group, or to the cryocompression training group. There were no significant differences between the two groups at baseline.

Participants visited the laboratory for three consecutive days. On the first day, they participated in a heavy resistance exercise workout. The exercise was designed to create muscular fatigue and moderate muscle tissue damage in the muscles of the lower body. The athletes were tested before and then immediately after exercise, as well as 60 minutes after exercise, and then after 24 hours, and again after 48 hours. The researchers were testing for muscle damage, soreness, pain, fatigue, sleep quality and jump power.

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The Results

Researchers found that the combining compression and cold therapy is an effective method to reduce negative side effects of tissue damage following heavy resistance exercise. In this study, participants in the cryocompression treatment group experienced less soreness after 24 and 48 hours after a heavy resistance training workout. Compared to the control group, the cryocompression treatment group experienced less muscle damage, less muscle fatigue, and lessens the negative side effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). They found that in addition to swelling reduction, the cold therapy plays an important psychological role in the perception of pain and recovery methods. The treatment group reported significantly better sleep than the control group, and felt significantly less fatigued than the control group.

Takeaways

Recovery plays a crucial role in effecting training progression, especially in relation to subsequent workouts. The results from this study indicate that there are performance benefits of combining cold and compression therapy (cryocompression) as a post exercise therapeutic intervention. There is a need for further work on cryocompression technologies that improve the effectiveness of resistance and recovery training programs. 

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References

Barnhart, E., Beeler, M. K., Caldwell, L.K., Dupont, W.H., Golden, M.J.P., Hardesty, V.

H., Kraemer, W. J., Meuris, B. J., Post, E. M., Spence, P. A., Tompkins, L. H., &

Usher, C. J. (2017). “The Effects Combining Cryocompression Therapy following

an Acute Bout of Resistance Exercise on Performance and Recovery.” Journal of

Sport Science and Medicine, 16, 333-342.

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