• jules

    apologies for being the party pooper – but is there objective evidence that says massage improves performance?

    • Anne-Marije Rook

      There are lots of studies out there, and it’s an area that continues to be studied. If you’re interested, for your reading pleasure:

      – Arroyo-Morales M, Fernández-Lao C, Ariza-García A, Toro-Velasco C, Winters M, Díaz-Rodríguez L, Cantarero-Villanueva I, Huijbregts P, Fernández-De-las-Peñas C. (2011) Psychophysiological effects of preperformance massage before isokinetic exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Feb;25(2):481-8.

      – Fritz, S. (2005). Sports & Exercise Massage: Comprehensive Care in Athletics, Fitness, & Rehabilitation. St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Mosby.

      – Archer, P. (2007). Therapeutic massage in Athletics. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

      – Wiltshire EV, Poitras V, Pak M, Hong T, Rayner J, Tschakovsky ME. (2010) Massage impairs postexercise muscle blood
      flow and “lactic acid” removal. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jun ;42(6):1062-71.

      • r k

        The first study you posted concludes that pre-event massage decreases muscle performance. The last study concluded that massage impaired lactic acid removal from muscles due to mechanically impeding blood flow.

        • Dave

          This is concerning, as the psychological boost from a placebo treatment would have to be pretty damn amazing to counter actual physiological detriments.

      • jakub

        There is a meta-analysis published concluding that “Research evidence has generally failed to demonstrate massage significantly contributing to the reduction of pain associated with delayed onset muscle soreness, or significantly enhancing sports performance and recovery, or playing a significant role in the rehabilitation of sports injuries. Design flaws in research have challenged some of the positive outcomes” see Brummit, J. The Role of Massage in Sports Performance and Rehabilitation: Current Evidence and Future Direction, N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2008 Feb; 3(1): 7–21. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2953308/)

    • Dave

      Lots of woo woo out there in these post-modern days, so it pays to be sceptical.

      The difficulty in putting it to bed properly lies in the fact that it would be so hard to test properly. It would be pretty easy for a control group to tell they’ve been given a sugar pill and the experimental group to tell they’ve been given a massage.

      Until shown otherwise, I’m going with it being probably just a placebo. If someone else is “working on your body” and it feels good, then of course you’ll perform better!

      • Anne-Marije Rook

        Hodnae does say that the post-event rub down has as much to do with the loosening of muscles as it does with the feeling of well-being of the athlete and helping them relax and get a good night’s sleep

        • Dave

          That points towards it being mostly psychosomatic. An athlete in reasonable condition who feels good will perform better than an athlete in better physical condition but poor morale.

          The benefit of massages for a cycling team are simply that it has a better bang/buck ratio than real performance increases (anything involving real science is expensive) and it can be done by the same staffers who do a whole bunch of other duties around the team.

          If something else helps you relax and mentally recover, do that instead!

  • Kim

    I am either having an ESL moment or just being pedantic but “flush the body from toxins” does not sound quite right

    • jules

      there is a theory that vigorous muscle use, which involves chemical reactions between oxygen, glucose etc. leaves by-products behind that may inhibit later use of the muscles. and that you can flush them out. I’m not an expert, just what I’ve read. from what I understand science’s understanding of this process is still evolving – such as around the role of lactic acid.

      • Dave

        Any use of “toxins” without stating which toxins is a massive pseudoscience red flag.

        Would the authors of the article please care to enumerate:
        (1) which toxins?
        (2) how are they removed?
        (3) why are these so-called toxins not able to be removed from the body by natural methods?

        I expect deafening silence, not deafening science.

    • Adam Fuller

      I think Jules missed your point. Should be “flush the body OF toxins”.

  • Michael Bland

    Great article ,it has shed some light on the the exact questions I had about massage . Being on a tight budget , 3 weekly massages seems very appropriate .

  • Pinkie Boadicea, PhD

    When I was runner (briefly from 2010-2013) I would go in for once a month massages. I found they were more of a drain to my budget than a benefit to my running as I was plagued with overuse injuries throughout the whole period — on top of doing PT to prevent said injuries.

    Since starting to cycle seriously, I make a point to go in every week the day after my hardest workout. This has been going on for about 8 months now and the benefits are enormous. I think the greatest benefit that I get is that my therapist and I learn my body very well and s/he (I have two, actually) can tell me from week to week how the tension is moving around and changing quality. When I try something new on the bike, my therapist can tell because my muscle balance will change.

    When I go pro, I hope to have access to more massage therapy. I can already tell now that once a week is just barely cutting it for me.


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