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Cherries for soreness? Well, weakness at least

PainSci » bibliography » Connolly et al 2006
Tags: DOMS, odd, muscle, good news, exercise, self-treatment, treatment, inflammation, pain problems

Three articles on PainSci cite Connolly 2006: 1. The Complete Guide to Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain2. A Deep Dive into Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness3. Vitamins, Minerals & Supplements for Pain & Healing

PainSci notes on Connolly 2006:

I have a weakness for cherries, all the more so now that I know they might make me stronger. Or less weak, anyway.

Soreness and weakness after unfamiliar exercise is notoriously untreatable — you just have to endure it — but perhaps it can be at least partially prevented with, of all things, tart cherry juice. It’s the antioxidants, see. (That word makes me a little suspicious.) Cherry juice, it seems, is chock-a-block with them and other “anti-inflammatory agents.” None of these things have proven to be especially helpful for muscle soreness before. But the cherry cocktail is special, because apparently if you give cherry juice to several young men and then make them exercise their biceps viciously, they experience a statistically significant 22% less strength loss than their poor peers who got fake cherry juice: black cherry Kool-Aid.

That’s the good news: tart cherry juice made a modest but clear and worthwhile difference for those guys in that test. The bad news? It had no effect whatsoever on the symptom we actually about: the pain. “Relaxed elbow angle and muscle tenderness were not different between trials.” I was going to run to the store to buy some tart cherry juice when I read that, but now I think I’ll just walk.

Finally, I’d just like to say that I don’t think black cherry Kool-Aid would fool me. I’m not sure it would fool anyone.

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Numerous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents have been identified in tart cherries.

OBJECTIVE: To test the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage.

METHODS: This was a randomised, placebo controlled, crossover design. Fourteen male college students drank 12 fl oz of a cherry juice blend or a placebo twice a day for eight consecutive days. A bout of eccentric elbow flexion contractions (2 x 20 maximum contractions) was performed on the fourth day of supplementation. Isometric elbow flexion strength, pain, muscle tenderness, and relaxed elbow angle were recorded before and for four days after the eccentric exercise. The protocol was repeated two weeks later with subjects who took the placebo initially, now taking the cherry juice (and vice versa). The opposite arm performed the eccentric exercise for the second bout to avoid the repeated bout protective effect.

RESULTS: Strength loss and pain were significantly less in the cherry juice trial versus placebo (time by treatment: strength p<0.0001, pain p = 0.017). Relaxed elbow angle (time by treatment p = 0.85) and muscle tenderness (time by treatment p = 0.81) were not different between trials.

CONCLUSIONS: These data show efficacy for this cherry juice in decreasing some of the symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage. Most notably, strength loss averaged over the four days after eccentric exercise was 22% with the placebo but only 4% with the cherry juice.

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