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Massage Therapy

Most coaches and trainers recommend massage therapy to their athletes, but many physicians are still skeptical about its health benefits. Several studies show that deep massage helps to make muscle injuries heal faster (1), improve training in athletes (2) and relieves painful pressure points in muscles and tendons (3).

Researchers at Ball State University showed that vigorous deep instrument-assisted massage done 21 to 29 days after severe tendon injury hastens healing (1). Massage therapy can also help athletes to train better (2). Athletes train by taking a hard workout that makes their muscles sore and then taking easier workouts until the soreness disappears. A 30-minute massage two hours after a hard workout lessens next-day muscle soreness and allows athletes to recover faster so they can perform more work and compete at a higher level. Many people suffer from pain in their muscles and tendons. A study from Denmark showed that deep massage therapy and regular exercise help to relieve these trigger point pains, while ultrasound does not.

Why then do some physicians still not recommend massage therapy for their patients? A study from the University of Calgary showed that the physicians who may speak against massage know little about how it is done and when to recommend it (4).

Massage for delayed onset muscle soreness

1) Davidson CJ et al. Rat Tendon morphologic and functional changes resulting from soft tissue mobilization. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997(March);29():1-19.

2) LL Smith, MN Keating, D Holbert, DJ Spratt, MR Mccammon, SS Smith, RG Israel. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 1994(Feb);19(2):9-99.

3) AN Gam, S Warming, LH Larsen, B Jensen, O Hoydalsmo, I Allon, B Andersen, NE Gotzsche, M Petersen, B Mathiesen. Treatment of myofascial trigger-points with ultrasound combined with massage and exercise - a randomised controlled trial. Pain 77: 1 (JUL 1998):73-79. Address: AN Gam, Univ Copenhagen, Bispebjerg Hosp, Dept Rheumatol, Lyngholmvej 53, DK-2720 Vanlose, Denmark. It is concluded that US give no pain reduction, but apparently massage and exercise reduces the number and intensity of Trigger points. The impact of this reduction on neck and shoulder pain is weak.

4) MJ Verhoef, SA Page. Physicians' perspectives on massage therapy. Canadian Family Physician 44 (MAY 1998):1018. Address MJ Verhoef, Univ Calgary, Fac Med, Dept Community Hlth Sci, Calgary, Ab T2N 1N4, Canada.

Checked  7/5/17

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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