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Massage Timing Affects Postexercise Muscle Recovery and Inflammation in a Rabbit Model


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2013 - Volume 45 - Issue 6 - p 1105–1112
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827fdf18
Applied Sciences

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 (TΘ) 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 TΘ 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.

1Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; 2Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; 3Division of Athletic Training, Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY; 4Center for Biostatistics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; and 5Sports Health and Performance Institute, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Address for correspondence: Thomas M. Best, Ph.D., OSU Sports Medicine Center, The Ohio State University, 2050 Kenny Road, Suite 3100, Columbus, OH 43221; E-mail:

Submitted for publication August 2012.

Accepted for publication November 2012.

©2013The American College of Sports Medicine