Massage has always had plenty of anecdotal support for helping DOMS and improving muscle performance. Athletes everywhere rely on sports massage to see them through periods of intense training for events and competitions.
I have had plenty of marathon runners jump on the table directly after an event, telling me that massage is the one thing they know will prevent them suffering for the next three days. The problem I’ve had that these accounts have not always been borne out in the research.
A recent systematic review of the available literature on massage therapy for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) has found it to be an effective treatment for alleviating the pain associated with vigorous exercise.
The researchers involved in the study found 11 suitable studies, involving 504 participants, which compared massage therapy to no intervention. They found that massage was effective at alleviating muscle soreness and improving muscle performance 24 and 72 hours after a vigorous workout.
This study is one of the most thorough to date, and only included randomised controlled trials in the analysis. The results go a long way to confirming the experience of athletes everywhere, and is one of the first reviews to find support for improved muscle performance.
This review does not necessarily prove anything, but the fact that massage improved both muscle isometric force (force generated during muscle contraction) and peak torque is very promising for all athletes looking to get back to training quicker and get the edge over the competition.
What does all this mean for you?
If you’re training hard and looking for a way to reduce the debilitating effects and pain from an intense training session, or want to train more often and achieve more in your sessions, then you would do well to include regular massages in your training regime.
You can find the full text of the study here to read for yourself.