Research Summary

Academy Title:andersen2013-massage
Research Article: Acute effects of massage or active exercise in relieving muscle soreness: Randomized controlled trial

Delayed onset muscle soreness, otherwise known as DOMS, is commonly experienced after novel and unaccustomed exercises, particularly after performing eccentric contractions. Both untrained individuals and trained athletes can experience DOMS, which often peaks 48 hours after exercise and usually subsides a few days later.

There are multiple remedies proposed to alleviate DOMS, among them being massage and active exercise. Researchers wanted to compare the effectiveness of massage to Thera-Band-resisted exercises in subjects with induced DOMS of their upper trapezius muscle. Their findings are published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

20 healthy female volunteers performed eccentric shoulder shrugs to induce DOMS in both shoulders 48 hours later. They then randomly received a treatment to one shoulder: either massage or Thera-Band exercise. They then received the other treatment in the contralateral shoulder 2 hours later.

The massage treatment was administered by an experience massage therapist for 10 minutes to the upper trapezius. The Thera-Band exercise was also administered for 10 minutes by completing 10 sets of 10 repetitions using red Thera-Band for 3 sets of 10, then green for 3 sets of 10, and finally blue for 4 sets o f10. Each set was completed in approximately 20 seconds, allowing 40 seconds for rest between sets.

The subjects were assessed for their perceived soreness on a scale of 1 to 10, as well as their pain pressure threshold, indicating the pressure at which the subjects experience pain. Measurements were taken at various times after treatment, up to 60 minutes afterward.

Statistical analysis revealed that both groups benefitted from either treatment; both treatments resulted in a significant decrease in upper trapezius soreness. Interestingly, there was no significant difference between treatments for either perceived pain level or pain pressure threshold.

While both treatments were equally effective, the authors made an important point: the benefit peaked at 10 to 20 minutes and was lost at 1 hour. In addition, the effects were of small to moderate magnitude.

The study design was solid and the authors did an excellent job describing their design and limitations. The authors concluded that Thera-Band “elastic resistance provides similar acute relief of muscle soreness compared with massage.” Coaches, therapists, and athletes can use Thera-Band exercises as part of a warm-up or massage to reduce DOMS prior to competition or strenuous work.

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