After running 10 kilometers, or about 6.2 miles, as fast as possible, runners who received 10 minutes of massage therapy focused on the quadriceps experienced a greater decrease in pain than runners who received 10 minutes of sham joint mobilization, according to recent research.

The study, “Massage therapy slightly decreased pain intensity after habitual running, but had no effect on fatigue, mood or physical performance: a randomised trial,” involved 78 runners with a mean age of 34, all of whom had been running at least twice a week for the past year.

These subjects were randomly assigned to either the experimental group or the control group. Those in the experimental group received 10 minutes of massage therapy focused on the quadriceps after running 10 kilometers as fast as possible. Subjects in the control group received 10 minutes of sham joint mobilization after running 10 kilometers as fast as possible.

According to the study’s authors, the massage protocol consisted of one minute of superficial effleurage, three minutes of deep effleurage, three minutes of petrissage, one minute of tapotement and a final two minutes of superficial effleurage.

Outcome measures in this study included pain and perceived fatigue, both of which were measured on a numerical rating scale that ranged from zero to 10. In addition, pain behavior was assessed via the McGill Pain Questionnaire, and mood profile was measured using Brunel Mood Scale.

Several strength and performance factors served as outcome measures as well. Quadriceps muscle flexibility was evaluated by measuring maximal knee flexion angle via inclinometer. Isometric muscle strength of the knee extensors was asssessed using hand-held dynamometry, and vertical jump performance was evaluated by recording jump height on the My Jump 2 app.

Results of the research showed a greater decrease in pain on the numerical rating scale among the subjects who received massage compared to those who received the sham joint treatment. No other differences were observed between the two groups for any of the other outcome measures.

“Massage therapy was effective at reducing pain intensity after application to the quadriceps of runners compared to a sham technique, but the magnitude of the effect was small,” state the study’s authors. “There were no significant effects on perceived fatigue, flexibility, strength or jump performance.”

Authors: Paula Urio Bender, Clarissa Medeiros da Luz, Jonatan Feldkircher and Guilherme Nunes.

Sources: Department of Physiotherapy, Center of Health and Sports Sciences, Santa Catarina State University, Florianópolis, Brazil; La Trobe Sport and Exercise Research Centre, School of Allied Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Originally published in April 2019 in the Journal of Physiotherapy, 65(2), 75-80.