The effect of acupuncture upon experimentally induced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) was assessed in a placebo-controlled study under blinded conditions. Volunteers (n = 48; 24 M & 24 F) were randomly allocated to one of four groups: control (20 min rest), placebo (minimal needling at non-acupuncture points), treatment group 1 (acupuncture at classic acupuncture points) and treatment group 2 (acupuncture at 'tender' points). DOMS was induced in the elbow flexors of the non-dominant arm using a standardized eccentric exercise regime. Measurements of elbow range of movement (flexion, extension, relaxed angle), and pain as well as visual analogue scores (VAS), tenderness (using a pressure algometer) were employed as indices of treatment efficacy. Measurements of elbow range of movement and tenderness were made prior to DOMS induction on the first day, and repeated pre- and post-treatment on subsequent days; pain was assessed using visual analogue scales post-induction and post-treatment on the first day, and pre- and post-treatment thereafter. For all conditions, subjects rested supine for a period of 20 min, during which treatment was delivered according to group allocation. Repeated measures and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) demonstrated no significant interactive (AB) effects, except for visual analogue scores (P = 0.0483); one factor ANOVA on the second day of the experiment (pre-treatment) indicated significant differences between the control and all other groups. However, such differences were not found on any other day of the experiment. It is concluded that acupuncture has little effect upon the cardinal signs and symptoms of DOMS, at least under the conditions of the current experiment.