Manual massage is commonly assumed to enhance long term muscle recovery from intense exercise, partly due to its ability to speed healing via enhanced muscle blood flow. We tested these assumptions by daily (for four days) massaging the quadriceps muscles of one leg on subjects who had previously completed an intense bout of eccentric quadriceps work with both legs. Immediate post-exercise isometric and dynamic quadriceps peak torque measures had declined to approximately 60-70% of pre-exercise values in both legs. Peak torques for both the massage and control leg tended to slowly return toward pre-exercise values through the subsequent four days (96 hrs). There was no significant difference between the isometric and dynamic peak torques between massage and control legs up to 96 hours post-exercise. Leg blood flow was estimated by determining femoral artery and vein mean blood velocities via pulsed Doppler ultrasound velocimetry. Massage of the quadriceps muscles did not significantly elevate arterial or venous mean blood velocity above resting levels, while light quadriceps muscle contractions did. The perceived level of delayed onset muscle soreness tended to be reduced in the massaged leg 48-96 hours post-exercise. It was concluded that massage was not an effective treatment modality for enhancing long term restoration of post-exercise muscle strength and its use for this purpose in athletic settings should be questioned.
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