Manual massage and recovery of muscle function following exercise: a literature review

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1997 Feb;25(2):107-12. doi: 10.2519/jospt.1997.25.2.107.


There is currently little scientific evidence that manual massage has any significant impact on the short- or long-term recovery of muscle function following exercise or on the physiological factors associated with the recovery process. In addition, delayed onset muscle soreness may not be affected by massage. Light exercise of the affected muscles is probably more effective than massage in improving muscle blood flow (thereby possibly enhancing healing) and temporarily reducing delayed onset muscle soreness. This paper reviews current scientific evidence on the use of manual massage to affect: 1) muscle damage caused by eccentric muscle action; 2) retention and recovery of muscle strength and performance following "eccentric-mechanical" muscle damage; 3) reduction of delayed onset muscle soreness following "eccentric-mechanical" muscle damage; and 4) recovery of muscle strength and performance following anaerobic exercise. Because manual massage does not appear to have a demonstrated effect on the above, its use in athletic settings for these purposes should be questioned.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Massage*
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / blood supply
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Regional Blood Flow