Massage induces an immediate, albeit short-term, reduction in muscle stiffness

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015 Oct;25(5):e490-6. doi: 10.1111/sms.12341. Epub 2014 Dec 8.


Using ultrasound shear wave elastography, the aims of this study were: (a) to evaluate the effect of massage on stiffness of the medial gastrocnemius (MG) muscle and (b) to determine whether this effect (if any) persists over a short period of rest. A 7-min massage protocol was performed unilaterally on MG in 18 healthy volunteers. Measurements of muscle shear elastic modulus (stiffness) were performed bilaterally (control and massaged leg) in a moderately stretched position at three time points: before massage (baseline), directly after massage (follow-up 1), and following 3 min of rest (follow-up 2). Directly after massage, participants rated pain experienced during the massage. MG shear elastic modulus of the massaged leg decreased significantly at follow-up 1 (-5.2 ± 8.8%, P = 0.019, d = -0.66). There was no difference between follow-up 2 and baseline for the massaged leg (P = 0.83) indicating that muscle stiffness returned to baseline values. Shear elastic modulus was not different between time points in the control leg. There was no association between perceived pain during the massage and stiffness reduction (r = 0.035; P = 0.89). This is the first study to provide evidence that massage reduces muscle stiffness. However, this effect is short lived and returns to baseline values quickly after cessation of the massage.

Keywords: Shear elastic modulus; calf; elastography; tension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Elastic Modulus / physiology*
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage* / adverse effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / diagnostic imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Myalgia / etiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Rest
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult