Is Electrical Stimulation Effective in Preventing or Treating Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) in Athletes and Untrained Adults? A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis

  • Mayara Alves Menezes
    Health Sciences Graduate Program, Federal University of Sergipe. R. Cláudio Batista - Palestina, nº 676, zip code: 49060-025. Aracaju, SE, Brazil
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  • Danielle Alves Menezes
    Psychology Graduate Program, Federal University of Sergipe. Cidade Universitária Prof. José Aloísio de Campos, Avenida Marechal Rondon, s/n - Jardim Rosa Elze, zip code: 49100-000. São Cristóvão, SE, Brazil
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  • Lucas Lima Vasconcelos
    Department of Psychology, McGill University, 2001 Avenue McGill College, QC, H3A 1G1 Montreal, Canada
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  • Josimari Melo DeSantana
    Address reprint requests to Prof. Josimari Melo DeSantana, Federal University of Sergipe, Cidade Universitária Prof, Department of Physical Therapy, José Aloísio de Campos, Avenida Marechal Rondon, 49100-000 São Cristóvão, SE, Brazil, Phone: (+55) 793194-6553
    Department of Physical Therapy, Federal University of Sergipe. Cidade Universitária Prof. José Aloísio de Campos, Avenida Marechal Rondon, s/n - Jardim Rosa Elze, zip code: 49100-000. São Cristóvão, SE, Brazil.
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Published:August 11, 2022DOI:

      Highlight points

      • The first systematic review that investigated the effects of electrical stimulation (ES) on DOMS.
      • ES was no better than placebo/sham or control for preventing or treating DOMS.
      • Evidence of very low to low quality indicates that there is no support for using of ES on DOMS.


      The effectiveness of electrical stimulation (ES) in preventing or treating delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and its effects on muscle recovery is unclear. The systematic review investigated the benefits or harms of ES on DOMS and muscle recovery. Databases (PubMed, Medline, CENTRAL, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, PEDro, LILACS, SPORTDiscus) were searched up to March, 31st 2021 for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of athletes or untrained adults with DOMS treated with ES and compared to placebo/sham (simulation or without ES), or control (no intervention). Data were pooled in a meta-analysis. Risk of bias (Cochrane Collaboration tool) and quality of evidence (GRADE) were analyzed. Fourteen trials (n=435) were included in this review and 12 trials (n=389) were pooled in a meta-analysis. Evidence of very low to low quality indicates that ES does not prevent or treat DOMS as well as ES does not help to promote muscle recovery immediately, 24, 48, 72, 96 hours after the intervention. Only one study monitored adverse events. There are no recommendations that support the use of ES in DOMS and muscle recovery.


      No recommendations support the use of electrical stimulation in delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle recovery in athletes and untrained adults. This means that electrical stimulation is not fruitful for this population according those protocols used. Therefore, unlikely that further randomized controlled trials with the same approach will yield promising results.

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