Purpose: This study compared the effect of immediate versus delayed massage-like compressive loading (MLL) on peak isometric torque recovery and inflammatory cell infiltration after eccentric exercise (EEX).
Methods: Eighteen skeletally mature New Zealand White rabbits were instrumented with peroneal nerve cuffs for the stimulation of hindlimb tibialis anterior muscles. After a bout of EEX, rabbits were randomly assigned to an MLL protocol (0.5 Hz, 10 N, 15 min) that started immediately post-EEX, 48 h post-EXX, or no-MLL control and performed for four consecutive days. A torque–angle (T–Θ) relationship was obtained for 21 joint angles pre- and post-EEX and after four consecutive days of MLL or no-MLL. Muscle wet weights and immunohistochemical sections were obtained after final treatments.
Results: EEX produced an average 51% ± 13% decrease in peak isometric torque output. The greatest peak torque recovery occurred with the immediate application of MLL. There were differences in torque recovery between immediate and delayed MLL (P = 0.0012), immediate MLL and control (P < 0.0001), and delayed MLL and control (P = 0.025). Immunohistochemical analysis showed 39.3% and 366.0% differences in the number of RPN3/57 and CD11b-positive cells between immediate (P = 0.71) and delayed MLL (P = 0.12). The area under the T–Θ curve showed a difference for immediate (P < 0.0001) and delayed (P = 0.0051) MLL as compared with control. Exercise produced an average 10° ± 0.2° rightward shift from preexercise peak isometric torque angle. Control, immediate MLL, and delayed MLL produced an average leftward angular shift from the postexercise angle (P = 0.28, P = 0.03, and P = 0.47, respectively).
Conclusion: Post-EEX, immediate MLL was more beneficial than delayed MLL in restoring muscle function and in modulating inflammatory cell infiltration. These findings invite similar human studies to make definitive conclusions on optimal timing of massage-based therapies.