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J Athl Train. 1998 Jul-Sep; 33(3): 222–228.
PMCID: PMC1320427

Effect of Whirlpool Therapy on the Signs and Symptoms of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness

Lori A. Kuligowski, MS, ATC,* Scott M. Lephart, PhD, ATC, Frank P. Giannantonio, MS, ATC, CSCS, and Rob O. Blanc, MS, ATC



To determine the efficacy of warm whirlpool, cold whirlpool, and contrast therapy in the treatment of delayed-onset muscle soreness.

Design and Setting:

Subjects performed eccentric contractions of the elbow flexors and received 4 treatments: immediately postexercise and 24, 48, and 72 hours postexercise. Treatments consisted of 24-minute treatments with warm whirlpool, cold whirlpool, contrast therapy, or no treatment.


Fifty-six sex-matched volunteers from the University of Pittsburgh.


Measurements were taken at 5 assessment times: pre-exercise (0 hours); prior to treatment at 24, 48, and 72 hours postexercise; and at 96 hours postexercise. Dependent variables were degrees of resting elbow flexion, active elbow flexion, and extension; perceived soreness values on a Graphic Pain Rating Scale; and maximal voluntary isometric contraction. A repeated-measures analysis of variance (group by time) and Tukey post hoc analysis were used to determine which treatment groups differed significantly in returning subjects to pre-exercise values.


Cold whirlpool and contrast therapy were found to return subjects to baseline values of resting elbow flexion and perceived soreness significantly more than warm whirlpool or no treatment (P < .01). Additionally, warm whirlpool was found to be more effective than no treatment in the return of resting elbow flexion (P < .01).


These results suggest that cold whirlpool and contrast therapy are more effective than warm whirlpool or no treatment in alleviating delayed-onset muscle soreness in the elbow flexors.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
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