One 15-minute session of massage therapy combined with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation each day for two days significantly improved gastrocnemius muscle fatigue among healthy adult males, according to recent research.
The study, “Therapeutic effects of massage and electrotherapy on muscle tone, stiffness and muscle contraction following gastrocnemius muscle fatigue,” involved 20 men in their 20s.
These subjects were randomly divided into either the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) group or the combined therapy (CT) group, which involved the application of both TENS and massage therapy.
Before either intervention took place, the researchers induced gastrocnemius muscle fatigue in the dominant leg of each subject via calf raises. After muscle fatigue occurred, each subject received either 15 minutes of TENS or CT once a day for two days.
For the TENS intervention, the electrostimulator was applied to the lateral and medial gastrocnemius muscles with an intensity adjusted to suit each subject’s tolerance level. In the CT group, the massage protocol focused on the lateral and medial gastrocnemius muscles as well, and all interventions took place with the participant in a prone position.
The main outcome measures in this study were the tone, stiffness and muscle contraction of the fatigued gastrocnemius muscle. These were assessed immediately before and after muscle fatigue was induced and again after the first and second intervention sessions, which took place 24 and 48 hours after the exercise to induce muscle fatigue.
Analysis of the data showed a significant increase in muscle tone and stiffness, along with a significant decrease in muscle contraction, among all subjects following the exercise to induce muscle fatigue. After the first intervention session one day later, there was a significant decrease in muscle tone and stiffness, along with a significant increase in muscle contraction, among subjects in both the TENS group and the CT group.
After the second intervention two days later, there was another decrease in muscle tone and stiffness, along with another increase in muscle contraction. However, lateral gastrocnemius muscle tone and stiffness decreased significantly only in the TENS group on this second day.
According to the researchers, there was no significant difference in the improvements in tone and stiffness between the two groups, but the CT group showed a greater decrease in these two outcome measures on average.
“Such a result is noteworthy because massage therapy decreases alpha and beta activity, inducing a relaxation response, which more greatly influences a decrease in muscle tone and stiffness,” state the study’s authors. “Since the intervention effect of TENS on muscle fatigue and recovery may differ according to different body parts, the application of massage therapy together with TENS will be effective for the management of muscle fatigue.”
Author: Joong-San Wang.
Sources: Department of Physical Therapy, Howon University, Gunsan, South Korea. Originally published in January 2017 in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 29(1), 144-147.