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bibliography*The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Franklin 2014.

Massage therapy restores peripheral vascular function after exertion


Tags: massage, movement, exercise, DOMS, manual therapy, treatment, self-treatment, inflammation, pain problems, muscle

PainSci summary of Franklin 2014?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★☆☆?3-star ratings are for typical 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.

The experiment showed not only that typical Swedish massage increased the “responsiveness” of blood vessels for up to a day, but that it did so throughout the body — in the arms, specifically, when only the legs were massaged. Their conclusion, translated: in some healthy young couch potatoes, when blood vessel function has been impaired by wicked workout soreness, massaging their legs seemed to improve it in their arms.

More functional blood vessels seems like a good thing! But note that it isn’t “increased circulation” per se, just a change in one of many biological factors that affect circulation. It would be a leap of logic to characterize this as evidence that massage “increases circulation,” especially given other evidence showing no significant effects on actual blood flow (the most obvious and direct measure of “circulation”).

If true, it is an interesting and happy result. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a good study or paper, and I simply don’t trust the authors or their conclusions. First of all, the lack of a true control group here isn’t just a “limitation,” as the authors acknowledged, it’s closer to a deal-breaker. And there are many red flags and a through-the-roof risk of bias shining through in many ways in the text. For a more detailed analysis, see Does Massage Increase Circulation?.

original abstractAbstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

OBJECTIVE: To determine if lower extremity exercise-induced muscle injury reduces vascular endothelial function of the upper extremity and if massage therapy (MT) improves peripheral vascular function after exertion-induced muscle injury.

DESIGN: Randomized, blinded trial with evaluations at 90 minutes, 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours.

SETTING: Clinical research center.

PARTICIPANTS: Sedentary young adults (N=36) were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups: (1) exertion-induced muscle injury and MT (n=15; mean age ± SE, 26.6 ± 0.3); (2) exertion-induced muscle injury only (n=10; mean age ± SE, 23.6 ± 0.4), and (3) MT only (n=11; mean age ± SE, 25.5 ± 0.4).

INTERVENTION: Participants were assigned to exertion-induced muscle injury only (a single bout of bilateral, eccentric leg press exercise), MT only (30-min lower extremity massage using Swedish technique), or exertion-induced muscle injury and MT.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD) was determined by ultrasound at each time point. Nitroglycerin (NTG)-induced dilation was also assessed (0.4 mg).

RESULTS: Brachial FMD increased from baseline in the exertion-induced muscle injury and MT group and the MT only group (7.38%±.18% to 9.02%±.28%, P<.05 and 7.77%±.25% to 10.2%±.22%, P<.05, respectively) at 90 minutes and remained elevated until 72 hours. In the exertion-induced muscle injury only group, FMD was reduced from baseline at 24 and 48 hours (7.78%±.14% to 6.75%±.11%, P<.05 and 6.53%±.11%, P<.05, respectively) and returned to baseline after 72 hours. Dilations of NTG were similar over time.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that MT attenuates impairment of upper extremity endothelial function resulting from lower extremity exertion-induced muscle injury in sedentary young adults.

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