Purpose: To assess the biologic basis of massage therapies, we developed an experimental approach to mimic Swedish massage and evaluate this approach on recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage using a well-controlled animal model.
Methods: Tibialis anterior muscles of six New Zealand White rabbits were subjected to one bout of damaging, eccentric contractions. One muscle was immediately subjected to cyclic compressive loads, and the contralateral served as the exercised control.
Results: We found that commencing 30 min of cyclic compressive loading to the muscle, immediately after a bout of eccentric exercise, facilitated recovery of function and attenuated leukocyte infiltration. In addition, fiber necrosis and wet weight of the tissue were also reduced by compressive loading.
Conclusion: We conclude that subjecting muscle to compressive loads immediately after exercise leads to an enhanced recovery of muscle function and attenuation of the damaging effects of inflammation in the rabbit model. Although these observations suggest that skeletal muscle responds to cyclic compressive forces similar to those generated by clinical approaches, such as therapeutic massage, further research is needed to assess the translational efficacy of these findings.