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Homeopathy for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Clinical bottom line: There is no evidence to show that homeopathic remedies are more effective than placebo at relieving the symptoms of exercise-induced muscle soreness. The majority of the trials were of poor methodological quality. There was no difference between homeopathy and placebo treatment in the higher quality trials.

Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is one of the many conditions practitioners of homeopathy claim to be able to treat, and therefore is an ideal model to test the efficacy of homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies used to treat DOMS include Arnica montana for soft-tissue trauma, Rhus toxicodendron for muscle stiffness and sarcolactic acid for sore and aching muscles.

Systematic review

Ernst E and Barnes J. Are Homeopathic Remedies Effective for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness? A Systematic Review of Placebo-Controlled Trials. Perfusion 1998; 11: 4-8

Date review completed: search completed July 1997

Number of trials included: 8

Number of patients: 200 patients in active groups, 111 in placebo groups

Main outcomes: exercise-induced muscle soreness intensity VAS or categorical scales, soreness duration, muscle strength, serum creatinine kinase (CK) concentrations

Inclusion criteria were double-blind trials carried out on human volunteers, placebo controlled, and include quantitative data on muscle soreness as an outcome measure

The authors conducted a comprehensive search including the databases Medline, Embase, CISCOM and the Cochrane Library and reference lists of retrieved reports. Reports were assessed and scored for methodological quality (0-100). A score of 55 indicates higher quality studies. The reviewers provided a descriptive summary of trial findings, as data pooling was not possible.

Findings

Trials were very heterogeneous in design. A variety of homeopathic remedies (Arnica montana, Rhus toxicodendron and sarcolactic acid) of various potencies and administration schedules were tested. The type of exercise used to induce muscle soreness included bilateral upper arm muscle flexion and extension, bench-stepping exercises and running a marathon.

Three trials were randomised and double-blind. One had a quality score of 60, and two scored 85. A total of 72 patients received homeopathy and 71 received placebo. All three trials reported no significant difference between homeopathy and placebo for the main outcomes of intensity and duration of muscle soreness up to five days post-exercise.

Five of the trials were of very poor methodological quality and all scored 38 points on the quality scale. These trials were described as double-blind but there was no statement about randomisation, there was inappropriate or no statistical testing, and no numerical data provided, four of the five studies had six patients in each treatment group, the remaining one had 14 patients per group. Interestingly, the same investigator conducted all five studies. All of the studies reported that at least one of the homeopathic groups was different than placebo for the outcome of muscle strength, but this was not supported by statistical tests

Adverse effects

Not reported in the review

Further reading


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