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Kinesiology and Physical Education


Massage therapy is commonly used following endurance running races with the expectation that it will enhance post-run recovery of muscle function and reduce soreness. A limited number of studies have reported little or no influence of massage therapy on post-exercise muscle recovery. However, no studies have been conducted in a field setting to assess the potential for massage to influence muscle recovery following an actual endurance running race. To evaluate the potential for repeated massage therapy interventions to influence recovery of quadriceps and hamstring muscle soreness, recovery of quadriceps and hamstring muscle strength and reduction of upper leg muscle swelling over a two week recovery period following an actual road running race. Twelve adult recreational runners (8 male, 4 female) completed a half marathon (21.1 km) road race. On days 1, 4, 8 and 11 post-race, subjects received 30 minutes of standardized massage therapy performed by a registered massage therapist on a randomly assigned massage treatment leg, while the other (control) leg received no massage treatment. Two days prior to the race (baseline) and preceding the treatments on post-race days 1, 4, 8, and 11 the following measures were conducted on each of the massage and control legs: strengths of quadriceps and hamstring muscles, leg swelling, and soreness perception. At day 1, post-race quadriceps peak torque was significantly reduced (p < 0.05), and soreness and leg circumference significantly elevated (p < 0.05) relative to pre-race values with no difference between legs. This suggested that exercise-induced muscle disruption did occur. Comparing the rate of return to baseline measures between the massaged and control legs, revaled no significant differences (p &rt; 0.05). All measures had returned to baseline at day 11. Massage did not affect the recovery of muscles in terms of physiological measures of strength, swelling, or soreness. However, questionnaires revealed that 7 of the 12 participants perceived that the massaged leg felt better upon recovery.


Reprinted from Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, Vol. 3, L.G. Dawson, K.A. Dawson & P.M. Tiidus, “Evaluating the influence of massage on leg strength, swelling, and pain following a half-marathon,” 37-43, © 2004, with permission from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.