leg_massageTo complement the Research Reports in the October 2014 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: After exertion-induced muscle injury exercises, sedentary adults who received 30 minutes of Swedish massage therapy showed improvement in endothelial function.

Sedentary participants exhibit improved endothelial function after receiving interventions incorporating massage therapy for exertion-induced muscle injury exercises. The study, “Massage Therapy Restores Peripheral Vascular Function Following Exertion,” involved 36 sedentary adults, ages 18 to 40.

The study’s authors explained, “exertion-induced muscle injury (EMI) is associated with muscle pain, soreness, swelling, decreased range of motion (ROM) and reduced muscle strength” and “can lead to systemic inflammation and altered endothelial function.” There is no predominant treatment for EMI, but massage therapy has been recommended for reducing symptoms and post-injury inflammation.

Researchers aimed to determine if EMI reduces vascular endothelial function, and if massage therapy helps improve peripheral vascular function after EMI. Prior to the study, participants spent less than 150 minutes per week engaging in moderate physical activity, and had no experience with resistance or aerobic training for six months.

Participants were evaluated at five time points: before, for a baseline assessment of endothelial function; and after (90 minutes, 24 hours, 48 hours and 72 hours) the intervention. These evaluations included measured brachial artery flow mediated dilation (FMD) and endothelial function through ultrasound imaging, along with the assessment of nitroglycerin-induced dilation (NTG).

Participants were organized into three groups: EMI-only, receiving a single bout of bilateral eccentric leg press exercise; MT-only, receiving a 30-minute lower extremity Swedish massage technique; and EMI plus MT, receiving massage treatment after exposure to EMI exercise. EMI exercises were conducted on a resistance leg press, with sets of reps performed to exhaustion and tolerable weight added after each set. The EMI-only group rested for 30 minutes afterwards.

The EMI plus MT group received massage treatment 30 minutes after the exercises, while the MT-only group received massage treatment after 30 minutes of rest. A licensed massage therapist performed Swedish massage techniques, targeting the bilateral lower-extremity muscle groups.

The EMI plus MT group and the MT-only group experienced increased brachial FMD from baseline measurements at 90 minutes and remained elevated until 72 hours. The EMI-only group experienced a reduction in FMD from baseline measurements at 24 and 48 hours, and returned to baseline after 72 hours. 

The EMI-only group reflected the highest perceived muscle soreness. Brachial artery diameters weren’t altered, and NTG-induced dilations were similar among the time points, indicating that endothelium-independent dilation was unaltered.

The authors suggested that a true control group be used in future studies, as this study didn’t include one. This study’s findings reflect massage therapy’s ability to enhance endothelial function. The authors said, “the results of this study contribute to a better understanding of how massage therapy promotes faster recovery from EMI and may have broader implications for the clinical use of massage therapy.” 

Authors: Nina C. Franklin, Ph.D.; Mohamed M. Ali, M.D.; Austin T. Robinson; Edita Norkeviciute; Shane A. Phillips, P.T., Ph.D.

Sources: Department of Physical Therapy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Department of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Integrative Physiology Laboratory, College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. Originally published in 2014 in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

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