Massage alleviates DOMS after steneous Exercise- A Systemic Review and Meta Analysis

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Starting an exercise program for a healthy lifestyle can cause temporary aches in the muscles related to muscle fiber damage. The body requires this process to promote the healing and building of stronger muscles. However, this can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

DOMS commonly occurs within the first 24 h after exhaustive or intense exercise, reaching a peak between 24 and 72 hours

It is often accompanied by muscle swelling and reduction in muscle performance, as a decrease in range of motion.

This process was assessed by microscopic analysis showing disruption of muscle fibers.

In addition, there is also an increase of intracellular enzymes such as creatine kinase (CK) and inflammatory markers in blood

As a therapeutic intervention, massage treatment is widely used to alleviate clinical symptoms of DOMS, and to benefit recovery after exercise

The effectiveness of massage therapy is proposed to increase skin and muscle temperature, blood and lymphatic flow, and parasympathetic, activity

The effects include then relief of muscle tension and stiffness, reduction of muscle soreness, and increased joint range of motion

This study was conducted to assess if massage therapy improved muscle performance. It was a meta-analysis assessing randomized control trials of massage therapy


The study found:

Muscle soreness rating significantly decreased after massage therapy intervention. Massage worked better between 48-72 hours of exercise, compares to 24 hours. Massage significantly improved peak tourque in the muscle, but no difference between 24-72 hours post exercise. The serum CK level significantly decreased in the massage intervention group when compared to the control group

  • Decrease 24hr muscle soreness (p = 0.03)
  • Decrease 48hr muscle soreness (p < 0.001)
  • Decrease 72hr muscle soreness (p < 0.01)
  • Decrease total muscle soreness (p < 0.001)
  • Decrease Serum CK levels (p = 0.001)
  • Improve Maximum Isometric Force Production (p = 0.002)
  • Improve Peak Torque (p = 0.03)

This systematic review and meta-analysis demonstrated that massage intervention can be effective for alleviating DOMS, as well as increasing muscle performance after strenuous exercise. The highest efficacy was achieved at 48 h post-exercise.

Author – Jianmin Guo et. al.

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