Objective: The purpose was to determine if intermittent pneumatic compression (IPC) affects muscle swelling, stiffness, and strength loss resulting from eccentric exercise-induced injury of the elbow flexors. We hypothesized that the compression would decrease swelling and stiffness.
Design: Repeated measures design with a before-after trial comparison within each day.
Setting: Conducted at a university Somatic Dysfunction Laboratory.
Subjects: Twenty-two college women students were studied. They had not been lifting weights or otherwise participating in regular arm exercise for the 6 months before the study. They had no history of upper extremity injury or cardiovascular disease.
Interventions: Subjects performed one bout of eccentric exercise at a high load to induce elbow flexor muscle injury. Uniform IPC was applied on the day of exercise and daily for 5 days at 60mmHg, 40 seconds inflation, 20 deflation for 20 minutes.
Main outcome measures: Measurements of arm circumference, stiffness, and isometric strength were recorded before exercise, then before and after IPC for 5 days after exercise. Passive muscle stiffness was measured on a device that extends the elbow stepwise and records the torque required to hold the forearm at each elbow angle.
Results: Circumference and stiffness increased and strength decreased during the 5 days post-exercise (p < .05). IPC significantly decreased circumference and stiffness most notably on days 2 and 3 after exercise (p < .05). The strength loss was not affected by IPC.
Conclusion: IPC is effective in temporarily decreasing the swelling and stiffness after exercise-induced muscle injury.