Sports Massage and Muscle Recovery
Swedish Study: Sports Massage Doesn't Help After Workouts
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 23, 2004 -- Getting a massage after a hard workout may feel good, but
it may not help your body recover faster, according to a Swedish study.
More and more athletes are requesting massages after competition. They are
thought to reduce muscle soreness associated with intense exercise and are
believed to aid in the recovery of strength and athletic performance.
The benefits of sports massage, in which muscles are kneaded harder than
regular massage, were recently tested by Sven Jönhagen, MD, of the
Institutionen Södersjukhuset in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues.
The researchers recruited 16 healthy volunteers -- eight men and eight women
-- aged 20-38. All participants were recreational athletes who exercised two or
three times per week.
In the study, participants worked out for 30 minutes, giving their leg
muscles intense eccentric exercise, which emphasizes extending muscles, not
Within 10 minutes after their workout, each volunteer got sports massage on
only one leg. The massages were performed by an experienced sports physical
therapist. A light massage was performed for four minutes followed by a deep,
kneading massage for eight minutes. This was repeated once a day for the next
No Advantage Seen
Researchers saw no signs that sports massage helped in post-workout
Strength tests taken before, directly after, and two days following the
exercise session had similar results for the massaged and unmassaged legs.
Both legs were sore for roughly the same length of time, the participants
When asked to do one-legged long jumps after their workout to compare leg
function, participants had an equally hard time jumping on either leg.
Finally, researchers measured hormones that the body releases as part of its
chemical response to pain.
Levels of the two peptides in participants' quadriceps were low and similar
for the treated and untreated legs.
"We did not find that sports massage of the quadriceps muscles had any
effect on the local recovery after hard eccentric exercise," write the
"Nor did we find any effect on the pain and soreness that normally
follow this kind of exercise."
However, the researchers say sports massage may have other benefits not
addressed in this study and that elite athletes may have different results.
The study appears in the September issue of The American Journal of