Massage therapy is often considered a panacea to minimize or eliminate exercise-related aches, pain and soreness. But is there any truth to these claims?
To answer that question, researchers the University of Illinois at Chicago recruited 36 sedentary young adults who were separated into three groups: exertion-induced muscle injury and massage therapy; exertion-induced muscle injury-only; and massage therapy-only. The individuals in the first two groups were directed to perform a bilateral leg press exercise until soreness was achieved. The exertion-induced injury plus massage group received an immediate post-exercise 30-minute massage on the affected leg. Each participant then rated level of soreness from one to 10, and underwent blood flow measures at 90 minutes, 24, 48 and 72 hours post-exercise.
According to the data, both massage groups experienced increased blood flow throughout the intervention. The non-massage group saw reduced blood flow at 90 minutes, 24 and 48 hours; blood flow was normalized at 72 hours. The exercise plus massage group reported no continued soreness after 90 minutes, whereas the exercise-only group’s soreness lasted 24 hours.
“Our results suggest that massage therapy attenuates impairment of upper extremity endothelial function resulting from lower extremity exertion-induced muscle injury in sedentary young adults,” conclude the researchers.
The study is published in <I>Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation<I> (2014; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2014.02.007).