Psychophysiological effects of massage-myofascial release after exercise: a randomized sham-control study

J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Dec;14(10):1223-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0253.


Objective: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of massage on neuromuscular recruitment, mood state, and mechanical nociceptive threshold (MNT) after high-intensity exercise.

Design: This was a prospective randomized clinical trial using between-groups design.

Setting: The study was conducted at a university-based sports medicine clinic.

Participants: Sixty-two (62) healthy active students age 18-26 participated.

Interventions: Participants, randomized into two groups, performed three 30-second Wingate tests and immediately received whole-body massage-myofascial induction or placebo (sham ultrasound/magnetotherapy) treatment. The duration (40 minutes), position, and therapist were the same for both treatments.

Main outcome measures: Dependent variables were surface electromyography (sEMG) of quadriceps, profile of mood states (POMS) and mechanical nociceptive threshold (MNT) of trapezius and masseter muscles. These data were assessed at baseline and after exercise and recovery periods.

Results: Generalized estimating equations models were performed on dependent variables to assess differences between groups. Significant differences were found in effects of treatment on sEMG of Vastus Medialis (VM) (p = 0.02) and vigor subscale (p = 0.04). After the recovery period, there was a significant decrease in electromyographic (EMG) activity of VM (p = 0.02) in the myofascial-release group versus a nonsignificant increase in the placebo group (p = 0.32), and a decrease in vigor (p < 0.01) in the massage group versus no change in the placebo group (p = 0.86).

Conclusions: Massage reduces EMG amplitude and vigor when applied as a passive recovery technique after a high-intensity exercise protocol. Massage may induce a transient loss of muscle strength or a change in the muscle fiber tension-length relationship, influenced by alterations of muscle function and a psychological state of relaxation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology*
  • Muscle Relaxation / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Relaxation
  • Young Adult