Caffeine Attenuates Delayed-Onset Muscle Pain and Force Loss Following Eccentric Exercise

Published:December 12, 2006DOI:


      This double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures experiment examined the effects of a 5 mg  ·  kg-1 body weight dose of caffeine on delayed-onset muscle pain intensity and force loss in response to 64 eccentric actions of the dominant quadriceps induced by electrical stimulation. Low caffeine–consuming college-aged females (n = 9) ingested caffeine or placebo 24 and 48 hours following electrically stimulated eccentric exercise of the quadriceps. One hour after ingestion, maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVIC) and submaximal voluntary eccentric actions were used to determine force loss during activation of damaged quadriceps and whether caffeine attenuates muscle pain intensity. Pain intensity was measured using a 0 to 100 visual analog scale. Caffeine produced a large (12.7 raw visual analog scale [VAS] units; –48%; Cohen’s d effect size = –0.88), statistically significant hypoalgesia during the MVIC (t = –2.52; df = 8; P = .036). The reduction in pain scores during submaximal voluntary eccentric movements was smaller (7.8 raw VAS units; -26%, d = –0.34), as was the increase in MVIC force (4.4%; d = 0.13).


      Eccentric exercise occurs when skeletal muscles produce force while being lengthened. For example, the biceps brachii muscles act eccentrically when a cup of coffee is lowered from the mouth to a tabletop. This experiment found that caffeine (equal to ∼2 cups of brewed coffee) could produce a large reduction in pain resulting from eccentric exercise–induced, delayed-onset muscle injury. This finding may improve the quality of life of individuals who experience skeletal muscle pain after engaging in unaccustomed, eccentrically biased exercise.

      Key words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to The Journal of Pain
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Apkarian A.V.
        • Bushnell M.C.
        • Treede R.
        • Zubieta J.
        Human brain mechanisms of pain perception and regulation in health and disease.
        Eur J Pain. 2005; 9: 463-484
        • Bond V.
        • Gresham K.
        • McRae J.
        • Tearney R.J.
        Caffeine ingestion and isokinetic strength.
        Br J Sports Med. 1986; 20: 135-137
        • Bruehl S.
        • Carlson C.R.
        • McCubbin J.A.
        The relationship between pain sensitivity and blood pressure in normotensives.
        Pain. 1992; 48: 463-467
        • Cannavino C.R.
        • Abrams J.
        • Palinkas L.A.
        • Saglimbeni A.
        • Bracker M.D.
        Efficacy of transdermal ketoprofen for delayed onset muscle soreness.
        Clin J Sports Med. 2003; 13: 200-208
        • Chen Y.
        • Hubal M.J.
        • Hoffman E.P.
        • Thompson P.D.
        • Clarkson P.M.
        Molecular responses of human muscle to eccentric exercise.
        J Appl Physiol. 2003; 95: 2485-2494
        • Clarkson P.M.
        • Hubal M.J.
        Exercise-induced muscle damage in humans.
        Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2002; 81: S52-S69
        • Connolly D.A.J.
        • Sayers S.P.
        • McHugh M.P.
        Treatment and prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness.
        J Strength Cond Res. 2003; 17: 197-208
        • Dudley G.A.
        • Czerkawski J.
        • Meinrod A.
        • Gillis G.
        • Baldwin A.
        • Scarpone M.
        Efficacy of naproxen sodium for exercise-induced dysfunction muscle injury and soreness.
        Clin J Sports Med. 1997; 7: 3-10
        • Francis K.T.
        • Hoobler T.
        Effects of aspirin on delayed muscle soreness.
        J Sports Med. 1987; 27: 333-337
        • Fredholm B.B.
        • Battig K.
        • Holmen J.
        • Nehlig A.
        • Zvartau E.E.
        Actions of caffeine in the brain with special reference to factors that contribute to its widespread use.
        Pharmacol Rev. 1999; 51: 83-133
        • Gaspardone A.
        • Crea F.
        • Tomai F.
        • Versaci F.
        • Iamele M.
        • Gioffre G.
        • Chiariello L.
        • Gioffre P.A.
        Muscular and cardiac adenosine-induced pain is mediated by A1 receptors.
        J Am Coll Cardiol. 1995; 25: 251-257
        • Graham T.E.
        Caffeine and exercise: Metabolism, endurance and performance.
        Sports Med. 2002; 31: 785-807
        • Herrmann-Frank A.
        • Luttgau H.C.
        • Stephenson D.G.
        Caffeine and excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal muscle: A stimulating story.
        J Muscle Res Cell Motil. 1999; 20: 223-237
        • Jacobsen B.H.
        • Edwards S.W.
        Influence of two levels of caffeine on maximal torque at selected angular velocities.
        J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1991; 31: 147-153
        • Jacobsen B.H.
        • Weber M.D.
        • Claypool L.
        • Hunt L.E.
        Effect of caffeine on maximal power in elite male athletes.
        Br J Sports Med. 1992; 26: 276-280
        • Juliano L.M.
        • Griffiths R.R.
        A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features.
        Psychopharmacology. 2004; 176: 1-29
        • Kalmar J.M.
        • Cafarelli E.
        Effects of caffeine on neuromuscular function.
        J Appl Physiol. 1999; 87: 801-808
        • Lanigan C.
        • Howes T.Q.
        • Borzone G.
        • Vianna L.G.
        • Moxham J.
        The effects of beta 2-agonists and caffeine on respiratory and limb muscle performance.
        Eur Respir J. 1993; 6: 1192-1196
        • Lecomte J.M.
        • Lacroix V.J.
        • Montgomery D.L.
        A randomized controlled trial of the effect of naproxen on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle strength.
        Clin J Sports Med. 1998; 8: 82-87
        • Levine J.
        • Reichling D.
        Peripheral mechanisms of inflammatory pain.
        in: Wall P. Melzack R. Bonica J. Textbook of Pain. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, Scotland1994: 59-73
        • Lynge J.
        • Hellsten Y.
        Distribution of adenosine A1, A2A and A2B receptors in human skeletal muscle.
        Acta Physiol Scand. 2000; 169: 283-290
        • Motl R.
        • O’Connor P.J.
        • Dishman R.K.
        Effect of caffeine on perceptions of leg muscle pain during moderate intensity cycling exercise.
        J Pain. 2003; 4: 316-321
        • Myers D.
        • Shaikh Z.
        • Zullo T.
        Hypoalgesic effect of caffeine in experimental ischemic muscle contraction pain.
        Headache. 1997; 37: 654-658
        • O’Connor P.J.
        • Motl R.W.
        • Broglio S.P.
        • Ely M.R.
        Dose-dependent effect of caffeine on reducing leg muscle pain during cycling exercise is unrelated to systolic blood pressure.
        Pain. 2004; 109: 291-298
        • O’Connor P.J.
        • Cook D.B.
        Exercise and pain: The neurobiology, measurement, and laboratory study of pain in relation to exercise in humans.
        Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 1999; 27: 119-166
        • Piters K.M.
        • Colombo A.
        • Olson H.G.
        • Butman S.M.
        Effect of coffee on exercise-induced angina pectoris due to coronary artery disease in habitual coffee drinkers.
        Am J Cardiol. 1985; 55: 277-280
        • Plaskett C.J.
        • Cafarelli E.
        Caffeine increases endurance and attenuates force sensation during submaximal isometric contractions.
        J Appl Physiol. 2001; 91: 1535-1544
        • Poudevigne M.S.
        • O’Connor P.J.
        • Pasley J.D.
        Lack of both sex differences and influence of resting blood pressure on muscle pain intensity.
        Clin J Pain. 2002; 18: 386-393
        • Price D.D.
        Psychological Mechanisms of Pain and Analgesia: Progress in Pain Research and Management, vol 15. IASP Press, Seattle, WA1999 (pp 15-42)
        • Proske U.
        • Weerakkody N.S.
        • Percival P.
        • Morgan D.L.
        • Gregory J.E.
        • Canny B.J.
        Force-matching errors after eccentric exercise attributed to muscle soreness.
        Clin Exp Pharm Physiol. 2003; 30: 576-579
        • Ribeiro J.
        • Sebastiao A.
        • de Mendonca A.
        Adenosine receptors in the nervous system: Pathophysiological implications.
        Prog Neurobiol. 2003; 68: 377-392
        • Sawynok J.
        Adenosine receptor activation and nociception.
        Eur J Pharmacol. 1998; 317: 1-11
        • Sayers S.P.
        • Knight C.A.
        • Clarkson P.M.
        • Van Wegen E.H.
        • Kamen G.
        Effect of ketoprofen on muscle function and sEMG activity after eccentric exercise.
        Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001; 33: 702-710