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Massage after strenuous exercise results in a significant decrease in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), along with an increase in muscle performance and a drop in creatine kinase, according to a recent review of previous research.

Massage after strenuous exercise results in a significant decrease in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), along with an increase in muscle performance and a drop in creatine kinase, according to a recent review of previous research.

The review, “Massage alleviates delayed onset muscle soreness after strenuous exercise: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” focused on 11 published studies on massage for delayed onset muscle soreness. Combined, a total of more than 500 people participated in the studies.

Post Exercise Massage vs. Usual Care

In order to be included in the meta-analysis, each study had to be a randomized controlled trial that compared post-exercise massage with usual care or no intervention.

Other inclusion criteria focused on outcome measures, requiring a primary outcome measure of muscle pain or soreness and secondary outcome measures of serum creatine kinase and muscle performance.

For the post-exercise massage, the authors of the review report three of the 11 studies employed traditional Chinese massage techniques, and the other eight used Swedish massage techniques.

The muscle or body region to which massage was applied varied from study to study, and the duration of massage ranged from six to 30 minutes, depending on the area of focus.

As for the timing and frequency of massage, this varied from study to study as well.

For example, one study involved a 10-minute massage immediately after eccentric exercise and again 24 hours later, whereas another employed a single 17-minute massage 48 hours after intense exercise.

Results of the meta-analysis showed a significant decrease in ratings of muscle soreness after receiving massage therapy as compared to no intervention.

Improvements in muscle soreness were greater when massage occurred 48 or 72 hours after exercise as compared to 24 hours after exercise.

The authors of the review found the biggest drop in muscle soreness when massage took place 48 hours after exercise.

Results of the meta-analysis also showed a decrease in creatine kinase after receiving massage therapy as compared to no intervention.

As far as muscle performance, both peak torque and maximal isometric force improved with post-exercise massage.

“This systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrated that massage intervention could be effective for alleviating DOMS, as well as increasing muscle performance after strenuous exercise,” conclude the authors of the review.

Authors: Jianmin Guo, Linjin Li, Yuxiang Gong, Rong Zhu, Jiake Xu, Jun Zou and Xi Chen. Sources: School of Kinesiology, Shanghai University of Sport, China; School of Sports Science, Wenzhou Medical University, China; Wenzhou People’s Hospital, Third Clinical Institute of Wenzhou Medical University, China; and School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Western Australia, Perth. Originally published online in September 2017 in Frontiers in Physiology.

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