From the NYTimes Well blog: How Massage Helps Sore Muscles

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A recent study published in the the Feb. 1 issue of Science Translational Medicine discusses how massage can have effects on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. In short, taken from NYTimes, “They found that massage reduced the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation. Massage also stimulated mitochondria”

So… What figures are we talking here? Since no numbers were provided, I’m left a bit skeptical. Also the study used 11 male subjects, using each subjects different legs. Again, I’m left a bit skeptical. 11 hardly seems like enough for a control group.

In a study such as this, I’m not sure how much good we truly get out of it. Is it cynical for me to simply accept that individuals that already enjoy going for their massage will simply continue, and individuals that don’t care for it aren’t likely to be swayed?

As a practitioner, I don’t like making promises to clients, much less make grand promises to reduce someone’s Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. DOMS is a unique condition–isolated to exhausted muscles–for which the cause, and cure has been bouncing around sports medicine for decades, and changing all the time.

DOMS takes roughly 48 to 72 hours to dissipate completely, and considering this, a $75 massage session to reduce it kind of just seems like mis-spent resources.

In my practice, I’d rather focus on chronic pain, structural issues, and factors in the day to day lives of my clients that contribute to it. I think it’s a more effective approach and gives my clients a better value for their hard-earned dollars spent in my office.

So, remember that Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is different than Myofascial pain. The greatest key to reducing DOMS is to know your limits when you take on a new or more strenuous workout, and gradually build up to your desired strength. Granted, everyone will experience DOMS, but it’s not debilitating, and it will go away.

Here is a good article about Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness from WebMD

And here is a science paper published in 2003 with lots and lots of information about DOMS