MRI evaluation of topical heat and static stretching as therapeutic modalities for the treatment of eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2004 Oct;93(1-2):30-8. doi: 10.1007/s00421-004-1153-y. Epub 2004 Jun 17.


The aim of this study was to monitor the effects of topical heat and/or static stretch treatments on the recovery of muscle damage by eccentric exercise. For this purpose, 32 untrained male subjects performed intense eccentric knee extension exercise, followed by 2 weeks of treatment (heat, stretch, heat plus stretch) or no treatment (control, n=8/group). Isometric strength testing, pain ratings, and multi-echo magnetic resonance imaging of the thigh were performed before and at 2, 3, 4, 8, and 15 days following the exercise. Increased T2 relaxation time, muscle swelling, pain ratings, and strength loss confirmed significant muscle damage during the post-exercise period. Pain ratings and muscle volume recovered to baseline by 15 days, although muscle strength remained lower [77 (4) vs. 95 (3) kg pre-exercise, mean (SE)] and T2 values higher [32.2 (0.8) vs. 28.6 (0.2) ms pre-exercise]. Our results indicate that heat and/or static stretching does not consistently reduce soreness, swelling or muscle damage. The practical implication of our findings is that clinicians should be aware that prescribing heat and/or static stretching following intense eccentric or unaccustomed exercise will not enhance the recovery of damaged muscles.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / pathology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Exercise Test / adverse effects
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Hot Temperature / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced / methods*
  • Isometric Contraction
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Pain / diagnosis*
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*