Essay Example: The Benefits of Massage Therapy in Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Published: 2023-01-25
Essay Example: The Benefits of Massage Therapy in Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Sport Healthcare Human services
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1735 words
15 min read

Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is common among athletes, often when particular exercises are unfamiliar. Exercise has numerous positive benefits; however, when executed excessively or inappropriately, an athlete will often experience muscle pain, discomfort as well as soreness. It is the muscle pain and tenderness that occurs several hours after an exercise and primarily consists of unconventional muscle actions and does not point to muscle damage (Zainuddin et al., 2005). Muscle pain often occurs 24 hours after an unfamiliar exercise, which is generally described as delayed-onset muscle soreness. Muscle injury may vary depending on the muscle strain and tearing as well as the mechanism of muscle repair that varies with the location of damage and degree of damage. The pain experienced in DOMS is caused by a buildup of tension and metabolic waste within the muscle, microscopic tears in the muscle fibers resulting from overstretching. Numerous treatments have been proposed with the ability to accelerate injured muscle coupled with rest, icing, and limb elevation are a conventional treatment for mild muscle injuries. Moreover, various pharmacological drugs have been recommended, such as massage, ultrasound, platelet-rich plasma, as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) (Tiidus, 2015). This paper details the benefits of Massage therapy in treating DOMS, which include pain reliever, reduce tension, improved recovery, and maximize performance.

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Pain Relief

Massage therapy is a widely used treatment in sports for the treatment of mild to moderate muscle injuries and enhances post-exercise muscle recovery process (Tiidus, 2015). The primary effect of massage is increasing in the blood flow. Massage increases the lymph and blood flow that assists in pain substrates removal, which might start to build-up in the injured area, hence reducing edema. Zainuddin et al., (2005) established that circulating neutrophil levels significantly increased among athletes subjected to massage and concluded it is as a result of the reduction in the emigration of neutrophils in the tissue space. In a post activity, massage to sore regions increases discharge to the lower threshold sensory fibers and briefly reduce pain in the areas. Massage interferes with the signal pathway of an athlete, thereby discharging endorphins that give muscles relaxation. It triggers the production of feel-good hormones in the brain, such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin that mask pain. Increasing the blood flow through massage enhances oxygen and substrate delivery that is critical to the restoration and redevelopment of the damaged tissue through DOMS that temporarily relieves pain after an intense eccentric exercise.

A study conducted on the effect of massage therapy indicated that it works by reducing the hypoxia hence improving the blood supply to the damaged soft tissues, thus assisting to preserve the energy homeostasis and reducing chances of edema and more leukocyte penetration, reducing oxidative damage, thereby enhancing the muscle repair process. Massage has a similar effect on the inflammatory process as an anti-inflammatory medicine. Kim, 2005, cited in Han et al., 2014 confirmed that there was a significant change in pain after a massage treatment among patients with gout. A massage program is critical for athletes in the reduction of painful muscles. Further, they stated that massage reduces soreness intensity about 48 hours after a muscle injury. However, therapeutic effects significantly vary among individuals since the intensity of pain also differs among different people.

Imtiyaz, Veqar & Shareef (2014) conducted research aimed at comparing the effects of vibration and massage therapy in the prevention of DOMS. They used both pre-test and post-test control groups that included 45 healthy female athletes. Less muscle soreness was reported among participants who underwent massage and vibration therapy compared to the control group. Massage therapy decreases the mechanical load on sarcomeres during eccentric exercises, thus, preventing rupturing of the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Pre-event massage assists in the reduction of the intracellular calcium and initiates calcium-sensitive degradative paths that ultimately result in the reduction of ultrastructural damage (Imtiyaz, Veqar & Shareef, 2014). Moreover, pre-event massage therapy reduces the negative performance factors such as connective tissue dysfunction pain and anxiety, thereby improving performance, preventing injury, and consequently lessening pain. Therefore, massage therapy is effective in reducing pain by interfering with pain cycle, removing waste products from increased circulation and release of feel-good hormones. Pain gate theory states that non-painful inputs close the nerve gates to the painful input that prevents the feeling of pain from moving through the central nervous system. Hence, pain is suppressed through stimulus by non-noxious inputs.

Reduce Tension

Muscle tension is critical in maintaining posture and stamina in everyday movement. Hypertonia can result in stiffness, pain, and constrain movement in an athlete. Relaxation is often inadequate because of tight and tense muscles that cause an increase in pain and constrains movement. An individual with DOMS usually has deep relaxation, both physically and mentally. Massage therapy is an effective technique to reduce tension in the muscle-tendon unit and improve recovery. The muscle-tendon unit affects the viscoelastic component of the muscle tissue that results to increase in muscle flexibility and reduces the stiffness of the muscle, thus increasing the blood flow (Imtiyaz, Veqar & Shareef, 2014).

Kennedy, Patil & Trilk, (2018) conducted a research aimed at examining the effect of muscle therapy on pain, sleep, stress, performance as well as the quality of life among elite para-cycling athletes. They used a quasi-experimental, mixed method, and concurrent design methods. The athletes were given a one-hour massage therapy session once a week for 4 weeks. The study established that there were significant improvements in their recovery, indicating the substantial role in muscle therapy. Athletes reported reduced muscular tension that was the most desired goal for massage therapy. However, pain reduction was least mentioned among participants, while pain reduction was cited as the athlete's session goal for attending massage therapy. While massage therapy did not significantly improve pain reduction, athletes often focused on improving function and reducing muscle tension.

Post-event massage is beneficial to prevent DOMS by reducing inflammation. Tearing is often associated with inflammation in the muscle, primarily resulted from muscular stiffness/tension. Through the use of various massage techniques allows prevention and quicker recovery without soreness and stiffness. Eccentric exercises cause chronic tight muscles and reduced flexibility. Reduced flexibility often results in soreness and is prone to muscle tears. Moreover, blood flow is significantly reduced in tight muscles that pull, causing inflammation as well as pain. Regular massage therapy after an eccentric exercise is an effective method of relieving the effects of trained muscles. Before an athletic performance, massage therapy can be used to alleviate hypertonia in the muscle since it reduces the flexibility in the athlete's muscles and increases the risk of injury. Massage therapy assists muscles to become relaxed and more flexible during an exercise session hence decreasing the risk of an injury.

Massage therapy before an event prevents the symptoms of DOMS since it is intended to organize an athlete for reduced fatigue, optimal performance, and reduced tension and to swell in the muscles. Particular massage techniques such as kneading, rolling while inserting pressure on the muscle, petrissage increases blood circulation through an increase in temperature within the area. This assists an athlete muscle to relax hence reducing tightening and prevents DOMS that may occur from stretching of a tight muscle. After intense muscle fatigue, an athlete often feels soreness and caused by the effect of microscopic tears as well as accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle. Massage therapy assists in increasing the temperature of the soft tissues hence allowing the muscles to relax; therefore, the muscle fibers are loosed, and movement increases consequently. Before an exercise, relaxed muscles are critical since it prevents tightening of muscles during exercise.

Improving Recovery

Zainuddin et al. (2005) researched to test the assumption that massage therapy done after an eccentric exercise significantly reduces DOMS without affecting the functionality of the muscles. The research employed the arm-to-arm research model with the control and massage as independent variables and six dependent variables. The study involved 10 participants (5 Men and 5 Women) in a university setup. The research established that massage therapy is critical in enhancing recovery from a DOMS without affecting the functionality of the muscle. Massage therapy is often used as a therapeutic technique for a faster recovery process from muscle injury as well as fatigue. Though there is no sufficient physiological theory to support the effect of massage therapy on recovery of a muscle injury from an eccentric exercise, it is often recommended by coaches as well as therapists as a preventive measure.

Kong et al. (2018) researched to examine the effect of post-event massage among athletes on passive muscle stiffness over five days. The study utilized a random cross-over design among 18 male leisure athletes. The research established that post-exercise massage therapy had no significant effect on lessening muscle stiffness in the major muscles of the leg. However, numerous coaches and athletes believe that massage therapy is desirable to reduce muscle stiffness among athletes and is more beneficial for a faster recovery process and prevents further injury of the muscles (Rodrigeuz et al., 2017 cited in Kong et al., 2018).

After a cycling event, a ten minutes massage therapy significantly improved the recovery of the stiffness of the quadriceps, thus enhancing their cycling performance (Ogai et al., 2008 cited in Kong et al., 2018). Massage is essential in improving blood circulation and removing waste products from the muscles. Increase in blood circulation in the muscles permits the movement of nutrients as well as oxygen to the damaged parts of the muscle. After massage therapy, the body of an athlete responds to an increase in the development of the mitochondria, which is responsible for the growth and development of cell as well as energy production. Therefore, it increases the healing process and quickens recovery. Moreover, massage assists improve cell nutrition through activation of the lymphatic system in the body of an athlete which removes wastes products naturally, hence, permitting quicker recovery of affected muscles.


As currently practiced among various coaches and therapists, massage has benefits to the athletes. Massage assists in blood as well as lymph circulation through the removal of fatigue. Athletes indicated reduced muscular tension that was the most desired goal for massage therapy. Massage increases the lymph and blood flow that assists in pain substrates removal, which might start to build-up in the injured area, hence reducing edema. Therefore, massage therapy should often be practiced by athletes to reduce DOMS as well as improve their recovery process and reduce muscle tension.

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Essay Example: The Benefits of Massage Therapy in Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. (2023, Jan 25). Retrieved from

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