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The effect of massage on injured rabbit muscles

added Jul 20, 13 • updated Jun 6, 15
Hou Y, Liu M, Yu M, Zhang P, Liu Z, Tang C. [Promoting effect of massage on quadriceps femoris repair of rabbit in vivo]. Zhongguo Xiu Fu Chong Jian Wai Ke Za Zhi. 2012 Mar;26(3):346–51. PubMed #22506476.
Tags: massage, strain, manual therapy, treatment, injury, pain problems, muscle

PainSci summary of Hou 2012 ★★★☆☆?3-star ratings are for average studies, with no more (or less) than the usual common problems. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

Animal studies don’t come up all that often in my work days, and I find them rather macabre. In this study, rabbits were injured, and then some of them received a lot of daily automated massage during recovery, from — I love this bit — an “intelligent massage device.” Their tissues were put under a microscope before and after, and apparently “histomorphology and cytoskeletal structure can be significantly improved after massage, which may help to repair muscle injury by up-regulation of Desmin and alpha-Actin expressions.” Sounds good.

Any study of tissue involves substantial complexities of observation and interpretation, and so it’s basically impossible to know whether the experiment was actually conducted competently and its results are trustworthy, unless other researchers do the same thing and get similar results. But it’s interesting, and promising, and consistent with the fairly sensible notion that moderate stimulation helps tissues recover from damage.

original abstract

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effect of massage on quadriceps femoris repair and the expressions of Desmin and alpha-Actin in rabbits so as to explore the possible molecular mechanisms of massage in repair of muscle injury.

METHODS: Twenty-seven New Zealand white rabbits, weighing (2.0 +/- 0.5) kg, were randomly divided into 3 groups: groups A (n = 3), B (n = 12), and C (n = 12). In group A, the rabbits were not treated as controls; in groups B and C, the rabbit models of quadriceps femoris injury were prepared by self-made beater. In group B, no massage therapy was given as nature recovery controls; in group C, RT-N2 intelligent massage device was used for massage therapy at 8 days after injury, at 3 000-3 100 r/min for 15 minutes, every day for 7 days or for 14 days. The quadriceps femoris specimens were taken from 6 rabbits of groups B and C at 14 days and 21 days, respectively. HE staining was employed to detect the histomorphological change. Immunohistochemistry staining and Western blot were used to detect Desmin and alpha-Actin expressions. The massage therapy effect was evaluated by the histomorphological change and Desmin and alpha-Actin expressions.

RESULTS: All rabbits survived to the end of experiment in groups B and C. No histological change was found with regular order of muscle fibers and no connective tissue in group A; obvious tissue necrosis was seen with broken muscular fibers, muscle atrophy, and irregular order in group B; and in group C, the skeletal muscle morphology and musle atrophy were obviously improved with regenerated muscle fibers when compared with group B. Immunohistochemistry staining showed that the Desmin and alpha-Actin expressions obviously reduced in groups B and C, which were significantly weaker than that in group A (P < 0.05); the Desmin and alpha-Actin expressions were significantly stronger in group C than in group B (P < 0.05), and at 21 days than at 14 days in group C (P < 0.05). Western blot results showed that the Desmin and alpha-Actin expressions were significantly higher in group A than in groups B and C (P < 0.05), and the expressions were lowest at 14 days in group B.

CONCLUSION: The histomorphology and cytoskeletal structure can be significantly improved after massage, which may help to repair muscle injury by up-regulation of Desmin and alpha-Actin expressions.

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