Effects of Sports Massage on Post-exercise Muscle Viscoelastic Properties

Project Number
SSI-Effects of Sport

Project Duration
December 2014 - November 2016


The practice of sports massage is common in Singapore. While many coaches and athletes perceive that sports massage can reduce muscle stiffness and facilitate recovery from fatigue,there is insufficient scientific evidence to support these beliefs. Quantification of muscle viscoelastic properties may help us better understand why athletes experience reduced muscle soreness after receiving a massage. This study aims to examine the effects of sports massage on post-exercise muscle viscoelastic properties. In addition, the relationship between pain perception, muscle functions and muscle viscoelastic properties will be examined. within-subject cross-over design will be used. Twenty male subjects will be recruited. Baseline measurements of viscoelastic properties, perceived soreness, pain sensitivity,strength, and flexibility of four muscles (rectus femoris, biceps femoris, tibialis anterior, medial gastrocnemius) in each leg will be taken. Creatine kinase activity will be measured as a biochemical baseline indicator of muscle damage. Subjects will then run downhill at a gradient of -10% for 60 minutes to induce muscle damage. One hour after completion of the downhill run, subjects will receive a 15-min sports massage on one leg, and a 15-min placebo (diagnostic ultrasound) treatment on the other leg. The assignments and orders of treatment will be randomised. Follow-up measurements on viscoelastic properties, pain and muscle function will be taken immediately after the exercise (time = 0 h), immediately after the treatment (time = 1.5 h) and continue for another 4 days (time = 24h, 48h, 72h, 96h). Creatine kinase will be measured as an overall indicator of muscle damage 24h, 48h, 72h and 96h post-exercise but it will not be able to identify the site of damage. This study will clarify whether sports massage can reduce muscle stiffness and facilitate recovery as commonly believed. Coaches and athletes can make an informed decision when considering sports massage after trainings and competitions. Our results may reveal new knowledge on the relationship between muscle condition and subjective soreness perception,facilitating future development of new methods to monitor training, fatigue and recovery. For administrators and policy makers, data gathered from this study will serve as reference for future planning and decision making on sports massage services.

Funding Source
Singapore Sports Institute

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