A study was conducted into the effects of massage on male body builders with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).The results found that a 30 minute massage significantly improved their recover rate and return to normal function.
As Remedial Massage Therapists we commonly get asked whether or not a massage will help in recovery from muscle soreness after exercise. Finally a study has been conducted that shows what we in the Remedial Massage Industry have known all along!
MASSAGE DEFINITELY HELPS!
What is DOMS?
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is pain and stiffness felt in muscles several hours to a few days (24hrs to 72 hours) after unaccustomed, high-intensity physical activity.(1) The pain generally feel like a deep ache and can often be sore with light touch. You may also experience a temporary decrease in muscle strength. The muscle pain and weakness usually peaks around day 2 and dissipates at day 3 or 4.
What did the study show?
The study, “Efficacy of massage on muscle soreness, perceived recovery, physiological restoration and physical performance in male bodybuilders,” involved 30 male bodybuilders who did not use supplements or steroids, had at least two years of experience in bodybuilding, and were active participants in a bodybuilding program that ensured a controlled diet-and-exercise pattern.
The men were divided into 2 groups, asked to fast for 12 hours and not exercise for 48 hour prior to the start of the examination. The two groups participated in an exercise routine designed to induce muscle soreness in the right quadriceps muscle. Following the exercise regime the massage group receive a 30 minute massage on the right quadricep where as the control group were asked to perform their normal passive recovery.
The Results - Massage Helps!
According to researchers Serum Creatine Kinase (CK) is a marker of muscle damage following exercise. Researchers measured CK levels in blood samples from both groups and found that the massage group had significantly lower levels at the 48 hour and 72 hour mark post exercise compared to the control group. Showing that the massage helps to recover from muscle damage caused by exercise.
They also measured the groups perceived soreness and found that the massage group's perceived muscle soreness was also decreased at the 24, 48 and 72hours after exercise compared to the control group.
Both groups were asked to participate in an agility test, vertical jump and a maximum isometric torque (MIT) test. (This is a test designed to show maximum force of a muscle group). In the vertical jump test both groups results were significantly decreased up to the 72 hour mark but interestingly the massage groups tests results were back to normal at the 72 hour mark. Unlike the control group who's results continued to decline.
As for the MIT test, both groups showed decreases in performance however the massage groups results were significantly higher than the control group by the 72 hour mark.
Finally in the agility test there were no significant differences found between the two groups.
What does this all mean?
The study points to the fact that massage can help to decrease perceived muscle soreness, aid in the recovery from muscle damage caused by exercise and help improve performance at the 24 - 72 hour mark, post strenuous exercise.
Something to note is that the study was only conducted on 30 people so it would be interesting to see what the results were over a larger test group.
In summary, the authors of the study concluded that “A post-exercise massage session can improve the exercise performance and recovery rate in male bodybuilders after intensive exercise.”
Authors: Mehdi Kargarfard, Eddie T.C. Lam, Ardalan Shariat, Ina Shaw, Brandon S. Shaw and Shamsul B.M. Tamrin.
Sources: (1) Brukner and Khan, Clinical Sports Medicine (2012),
Original Study: Efficacy of massage on muscle soreness, perceived recovery, physiological restoration and physical performance in male bodybuilders,