Most athletes are very familiar with the muscle fatigue that can come after hard exercise.
Over time, the buildup of muscle fatigue may affect athletic performance, as well as increase the time needed for recovery between bouts of exercise. This can be debilitating and frustrating for professional athletes, those who exercise regularly, and even the “weekend warriors” who may only engage in exercise once a week or less.
What if there was a simple, effective method not only to treat muscles after exercise, but also beforehand, to prevent excessive buildup of serum lactate and creatine kinase (CK), which lead to muscle fatigue?
A randomized trial, published in the February 2014 issue of Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, found that low level laser therapy might be the solution to treating debilitating muscle fatigue in athletes.
In this trial, a group of 27 male athletes were divided into three groups—placebo, pre-fatigue, and post-fatigue—to determine the effects of low level laser therapy (830 nm) on skeletal muscle fatigue before and after exercise. The experiment was performed in two sessions that were a week apart. The subjects did two sessions of stretching, followed by blood collection to determine the amount of serum lactate and CK in the muscles before and after quadriceps muscle fatigue induced by leg lifts.
An infrared laser device was used on the femoral quadriceps at 70 seconds per leg. The researchers measured the number of repetitions and time until muscle fatigue as primary outcomes. Serum lactate (before and five, 10, and 15 minutes after exercise) and CK levels (before and five minutes after exercise) were secondary outcomes.
The number of leg lift repetitions and time until muscle fatigue were similar for all three groups. However, those athletes who received post-fatigue laser treatment had significantly lower serum lactate concentration than those who received the placebo treatment. Furthermore, serum lactate levels also significantly decreased within the post-fatigue group over time. The CK levels were also lower in the post-fatigue group.
The researchers concluded: “Laser application either before or after fatigue reduced the post-fatigue concentrations of serum lactate and CK. The results were more pronounced in the post-fatigue laser group.”
Based on this research, it would appear that low level laser therapy can be a valuable addition to any chiropractor’s treatment regimen to reduce muscle fatigue for those patients who regularly exercise or participate in sports.
Dos Reis FA, da Silva BA, Laraia EM, de Melo RM, et al. Effects of pre- or post-exercise low-level laser therapy (830 nm) on skeletal muscle fatigue and biochemical markers of recovery in humans: double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Photomed Laser Surg. 2014;32(2):106–112.