A model of tourniquet ischaemia was developed in the hind limb of the rat, and the metabolic changes that occurred in the calf muscles were monitored by the non-invasive technique of phosphorus-31 nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. During ischaemia the intramyocellular pH became acidic as the level of phosphocreatine declined and that of inorganic phosphate rose. Phosphocreatine was no longer detectable after approximately 2 hours and ATP was depleted after approximately 3.5 hours. Metabolic recovery was rapid (1 hour) if ATP was present when the tourniquet was released but was prolonged (3 or more hours) if ATP was depleted. Hourly release of the tourniquet for 10 minutes ensured the maintenance of ATP and rapid metabolic recovery. Release for intervals of only 5 minutes did not have the same protective effect and in fact worsened tissue pH during the period of tourniquet ischaemia. Heparin and corticosteroids were without effect during and after periods of tourniquet ischaemia.