Author Chua, Kelvin Yaohui
Title Effects of massage on muscle viscoelastic properties
Institute Thesis (M.Sc.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Year 2017
Supervisor Kong, Veni Pui Wah; Kawabata, Masato
 
Summary

Massage is widely practiced in sports settings to treat muscle pain and weaknesses associated with delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). However, little is known about the effects massage has on muscle viscoelastic properties (i.e., stiffness, tone, and elasticity). Existing studies either utilized equipment that were too complex for use within sports settings, or only examined the short-term (few minutes) effects of massage. In addition, the relationship between muscle viscoelastic properties and perceived soreness are still not well established.
In recent times, myotonometry has become a popular technique to reliably assess muscle viscoelastic properties. With this novel technology, it is now possible to conveniently examine the effects of massage on muscle viscoelastic properties after intense exercising. Thus, this study aimed to examine the effects of massage on post-exercise muscle viscoelastic properties, and to investigate the relationship between perceived muscle soreness and muscle viscoelastic properties.

Eighteen recreational male runners [mean (SD) age: 24.9 (3.4) years; height: 1.71 (0.05) m; mass: 63.5 (7.5) kg] were recruited. Participants underwent a 40-minute downhill run to induce DOMS in their lower limb muscles. Ninety minutes post-run, participants received a 16-minute massage on one leg and a 16-minute placebo treatment (sham therapeutic ultrasound) on the contralateral leg. Muscle of interests include: i) rectus femoris, ii) biceps femoris, iii) tibialis anterior, and iv) medial gastrocnemius. Muscle viscoelastic properties measured through myotonometry, along with perceived muscle soreness measured using a numerical rating scale (NRS), and pressure pain threshold (PPT) obtained using pressure algometry, were assessed at seven measurement time points (baseline, post-run, post-treatment, 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours post-run).

Myotonometric results showed no significant effect of treatment or interaction in all measured parameters (p > .050). Results of perceived muscle soreness also indicated no significant effect of treatment or interaction across all time points in both methods (p > .050). Correlation results showed no consistent relationship between perceived muscle soreness and muscle viscoelastic properties.
It was concluded that a 16-minute bout of massage, consisting of effleurage, petrissage, and tapotement was not effective in enhancing the recovery of muscle viscoelastic properties or alleviating perceived muscle soreness in the lower limbs, up to 96 hours following an eccentric downhill run. Nevertheless, findings here provided support to the use of myotonometry to monitor changes in muscle stiffness and tone following intense exercise. NRS was recommended for use in future investigations to assess perceived muscle soreness as compared to PPT. The inconsistent relationship between perceived muscle soreness and muscle viscoelastic properties indicates that subjective changes in perception of muscle soreness were not related to objective alterations in muscle viscoelastic properties. Therefore, it is recommended to utilize a combination of both assessment methods in the monitoring of muscle condition and recovery in athletes.