Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Massage Is Good for Athletes’ Muscles

Research on Rabbits Supports Belief That Massage Helps Athletes’ Muscles Recover
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 22, 2008 -- Researchers are confirming what serious athletes have long believed: Swedish massage immediately after intense exercise helps muscles recover.

To test the validity of this common practice in the sports world, scientists did studies on a team of six rabbits. Each rabbit's hind legs were exercised; one of each rabbit's exercised legs was then massaged and the other was not. The massaged muscles fared better, according to the study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The rabbits had their muscles moved in a way to simulate exercise. The focus was on intense eccentric exercise, which is when muscles contract and lengthen at the same time. A device forced the sedated rabbits in a repetitive motion designed to mimic how a human's legs are exercised.

After the exercise regimen, one leg's muscles received a mechanical treatment that was supposed to imitate Swedish massage, considered the most popular style of massage with athletes. The rabbit's other muscle did not receive massage, but was rested after the simulated exercise routine.

The massaged muscles recovered significantly more function and strength after the four-day trial. Also, the muscles that were not massaged had more damaged muscle fibers and more white blood cells, which can indicate inflammation. The massaged muscles weighed less than the rested muscles, suggesting the massages prevented swelling.

"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."

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
Teen girl jogging
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article