Using massage to reduce pain after exercise

In this study by researchers at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, massage reduced delayed onset muscle soreness by almost half.

First, the details.

  • Eccentric wrist extension exercises (an example is here) were performed to cause delayed onset muscle soreness 48 hours later.
  • Participants were randomly assigned to no-treatment, superficial touch, or deep-tissue massage.
  • Pain was assessed before and after treatment using visual analog scales (VAS) and pressure pain thresholds.
  • Neither the volunteers nor the researchers were aware of the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • 48 hours after the exercise, the deep massage group reported a 48% decrease in pain during muscle stretching.
  • Sensitivity to pain was reduced 28% after deep massage and superficial touch relative to the no treatment group, which had a 38% increase in pain.
  • Resting pain didn’t vary among treatment groups.

The bottom line?
Delayed onset muscle soreness is the pain and soreness you feel 12 to 48 hours after exercise. It’s most apparent after beginning a new exercise program, after a change in sports activities, or after a dramatic increase in the duration or intensity of exercise.

The authors tell us that few studies have systematically studied the response to massage under the conditions seen in this study. They hope “This information may assist clinicians in determining conservative treatment options for patients with myalgia.”

How do we explain the reported benefit of superficial touch?

7/28/08 14/28/08 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.