Lights or Ice to restore muscle after exercise? LIGHTS! Near Infrared and Red Light performed better than ice and lights or ice alone. Light led to “complete recovery to baseline levels” 1 day after high intensity exercise. We have been told for many years to RICE but the evidence seems to show that Lights would be a better choice.
Lasers Med Sci. 2016 Dec;31(9):1925-1933. Epub 2016 Sep 13.

Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) and/or cryotherapy in skeletal muscle restitution, what is better? A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial.


Cryotherapy for post-exercise recovery remains widely used despite the lack of quality evidence. Photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) studies (with both low-level laser therapy and light-emitting diode therapy) have demonstrated positive scientific evidence to suggest its use. The study aims to evaluate PBMT and cryotherapy as a single or combined treatment on skeletal muscle recovery after eccentric contractions of knee extensors. Fifty healthy male volunteers were recruited and randomized into five groups (PBMT, cryotherapy, cryotherapy + PBMT, PMBT + cryotherapy, or placebo) for a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial that evaluated exercise performance (maximum voluntary contraction (MVC)), delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and muscle damage (creatine kinase (CK)). Assessments were performed at baseline; immediately after; and at 1, 24, 48, 72, and 96 h. Comparator treatments was performed 3 min after exercise and repeated at 24, 48, and 72 h. PBMT was applied employing a cordless, portable GameDay device (combination of 905 nm super-pulsed laser and 875- and 640-nm light-emitting diodes (LEDs); manufactured by Multi Radiance Medical, Solon – OH, USA), and cryotherapy by flexible rubber ice packs. PBMT alone was optimal for post-exercise recovery with improved MVC, decreased DOMS, and CK activity (p < 0.05) from 24 to 96 h compared to placebo, cryotherapy, and cryotherapy + PBMT. In the PBMT + cryotherapy group, the effect of PBMT was decreased (p > 0.05) but demonstrated significant improvement in MVC, decreased DOMS, and CK activity (p < 0.05). Cryotherapy as single treatment and cryotherapy + PBMT were similar to placebo (p > 0.05). We conclude that PBMT used as single treatment is the best modality for enhancement of post-exercise restitution, leading to complete recovery to baseline levels from 24 h after high-intensity eccentric contractions.


Exercise recovery; Light-emitting diodes; Low-level laser therapy; Performance; Phototherapy

[PubMed – in process]