Massage therapy slightly decreased pain intensity after habitual running, but had no effect on fatigue, mood or physical performance: a randomised trial

J Physiother. 2019 Apr;65(2):75-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jphys.2019.02.006. Epub 2019 Mar 23.


Question: Does massage therapy reduce pain and perceived fatigue in the quadriceps, and improve the mood and physical performance of runners after habitual sporting activity (10-km run)?

Design: Randomised controlled trial with concealed allocation, intention-to-treat analysis and blinded assessment.

Participants: Seventy-eight runners after sporting activity (10-km run).

Intervention: The experimental group received 10 minutes of massage to the quadriceps aimed at recovery following sport practice, and the control group received a sham joint mobilisation.

Outcome measures: Pain and perceived fatigue were each assessed using a 0-to-10 numerical rating scale; pain behaviour via the McGill Pain Questionnaire; mood profile via Brunel Mood Scale; quadriceps muscle flexibility using maximal knee flexion angle via inclinometer; isometric muscle strength of knee extensors via hand-held dynamometry; and vertical jump performance using jump height via My Jump 2 app. Evaluations were carried out immediately before and after the intervention, and at 24, 48 and 72 hours after the intervention. Generalised estimating equations were used to estimate a between-group difference (95% CI) using data across all time points.

Results: The experimental group had significantly lower scores than the control group on the numerical rating scale for pain by 0.7 points (95% CI 0.1 to 1.3). There were no significant between-group differences for any of the other outcome measures.

Conclusion: Massage therapy was effective at reducing pain intensity after application to the quadriceps of runners compared to a sham technique, but the magnitude of the effect was small. There were no significant effects on perceived fatigue, flexibility, strength or jump performance.

Trial registration: Brazilian Registry of Clinical Trials, RBR-393m7m.

Keywords: Athletes; Musculoskeletal manipulations; Musculoskeletal pain; Physical therapy; Quadriceps muscle.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Exercise Test
  • Fatigue / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / therapy*
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Measurement
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiopathology
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Running / physiology*
  • Running / psychology*
  • Young Adult