Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Massaging Muscles Facilitates Recovery After Exercise

Date:
August 18, 2008
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
Researchers testing the long-held theory that therapeutic massage can speed recovery after a sports injury have found early scientific evidence of the healing effects of massage. The scientists have determined that immediate cyclic compression of muscles after intense exercise reduced swelling and muscle damage in a study using animals.

A woman receives a massage after a sports competition. Such therapeutic massage can speed recovery after a sports injury, researchers have found.
Credit: iStockphoto

Researchers testing the long-held theory that therapeutic massage can speed recovery after a sports injury have found early scientific evidence of the healing effects of massage.

The scientists have determined that immediate cyclic compression of muscles after intense exercise reduced swelling and muscle damage in a study using animals.

Though they say it’s too soon to apply the results directly to humans in a clinical environment, the researchers consider the findings a strong start toward scientific confirmation of massage’s benefits to athletes after intense eccentric exercise, when muscles contract and lengthen at the same time.

“There is potential that this continuing research will have huge clinical implications,” said Thomas Best, a professor of family medicine at Ohio State University and senior author of the study. “If we can define the mechanism for recovery, the translation of these findings to the clinic will dictate how much massage is needed, for how long, and when it should be performed after exercise.”

Anecdotal evidence suggests massage offers many health benefits, but actual testing of its effects at the cellular level is more difficult than one might think. In this study with rabbits, the researchers used one mechanical device to mimic movements associated with a specific kind of exercise, and a second device to follow the exercise with a simulated consistent massaging motion on the affected muscles. They compared these animals to other animals that performed the exercise movements but did not receive simulated massage. All animals were sedated during the experiments.

“We tried to mimic Swedish massage because anecdotally, it’s the most popular technique used by athletes,” said Best, who is also co-medical director of the OSU Sports Medicine Center and a team physician for the Department of Athletics. “A review of the research in this area shows that despite the existing anecdotal evidence – we know athletes use massage all the time – researchers don’t know the mechanism of how massage improves recovery after exercise and injury.”

Swedish massage combines long strokes, kneading and friction techniques on muscles and various movements of joints, according to the American Massage Therapy Association.

After the experimental exercise and massage were performed in the study, the researchers compared the muscle tissues of all of the animals, finding that the muscles in animals receiving simulated massage had improved function, less swelling and fewer signs of inflammation than did muscles in the animals that received no massage treatment after exercise.

The research is published in a recent issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The research focused on eccentric exercise, which creates a motion similar to the way in which quadriceps in human thighs are exercised during a downhill run. In the study, the scientists focused on the tibialis anterior muscle, located on the front of the shin in humans. The simulated exercise involved continuous flexing and pointing of the toes to exert the muscle during seven sets of 10 cycles, with two minutes of rest between each set.

“It’s hard to describe exactly how the exercise intensity would be matched in a human, but this was considered a significant amount of exercise that would likely cause muscle soreness and possible damage,” Best said.

Immediately following the exercise, the affected muscle was subjected to 30 minutes of simulated massage, called compressive loading. The researchers used mathematical equations to determine the appropriate amount of force to apply to the animal muscle, which was intended to match the force Swedish massage typically places on a patient’s spine. The device used to simulate the stroking motion for the research was designed by Yi Zhao, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Ohio State and a co-author of the study.

“We know biological tissues are sensitive to the magnitude of frequency, duration and load, so we controlled the force, frequency and time spent on massage,” Best said.

The exercise-massage cycle was repeated for four days, after which the animals’ muscle strength and tissue were examined.

The massaged muscles recovered an estimated 60 percent of the strength after the four-day trial, compared to restoration of about 14 percent of strength in muscles that were exercised and then rested.

Similarly, the massaged muscles had fewer damaged muscle fibers and virtually no sign of white blood cells, the presence of which would indicate that the body was working to repair muscle damage, when compared with the rested muscles. The massaged muscles weighed about 8 percent less than the rested muscles, suggesting that the massage helped prevent swelling, Best said.

“One fundamental question is how much of a role does inflammation play in repair to a muscle? Are we preventing inflammation and therefore improving recovery? We haven’t proven that yet,” Best said.

He is collaborating with a variety of experts across the university to continue this line of research, and hopes to cooperate with Ohio State’s Center for Integrative Medicine on future clinic-based work.

“Our goal is to use this model to understand the biological mechanisms of massage as a guide to preclinical trials to test the effects of massage on muscle recovery after exercise,” he said. “A trial in humans could look at optimal indications for massage.

"Ultimately, we could also find out how massage helps not just exercise-induced muscle injury, but swelling and pain associated with other medical conditions, as well.”

Additional co-authors on the study were Timothy Butterfield, a former postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State now with the University of Kentucky Department of Rehabilitation Sciences; Sudha Agarwal of the Ohio State College of Dentistry’s Section of Oral Biology; and Furqan Haq of Ohio State’s Division of Sports Medicine in the Department of Family Medicine.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Ohio State University Pomerene Chair in Family Medicine, held by Best.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "Massaging Muscles Facilitates Recovery After Exercise." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080812213937.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2008, August 18). Massaging Muscles Facilitates Recovery After Exercise. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080812213937.htm
Ohio State University. "Massaging Muscles Facilitates Recovery After Exercise." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080812213937.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

Liberia Pleads for Help to Fight Ebola

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Liberia's finance minister is urging the international community to quickly follow through on pledges of cash to battle Ebola. Bodies are piling up in the capital Monrovia as the nation awaits more help. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

Ebola Doctor Says Border Controls Critical

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) A Florida doctor who helped fight the expanding Ebola outbreak in West Africa says the disease can be stopped, but only if nations quickly step up their response and make border control a priority. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Global Ebola Aid Increasing But Critics Say It's Late

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) More than 100 tons of medical supplies were sent to West Africa on Saturday, but aid workers say the global response is still sluggish. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins