Muscle Function

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The effect of massage on localized lumbar muscle fatigue

Tim Hideaki Tanaka, Gerry Leisman, Hidetoshi Mori, and Kazushi Nishijo

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2002; 2: 9.



There is not enough evidence to support the efficacy of massage for muscle fatigue despite wide utilization of the modality in various clinical settings. This study investigated the influence of massage application on localized back muscle fatigue.


Twenty-nine healthy subjects participated in two experimental sessions (massage and rest conditions). On each test day, subjects were asked to lie in the prone position on a treatment table and perform sustained back extension for 90 seconds. Subjects then either received massage on the lumbar region or rested for a 5 minute duration, then repeated the back extension movement. The median frequency (MDF), mean power frequency (MNF), and root mean square (RMS) amplitude of electromyographic signals during the 90 second sustained lumbar muscle contraction were analyzed. The subjective feeling of fatigue was then evaluated using the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS).


MDF and MNF significantly declined with time under all conditions. There was no significant difference in MDF, MNF or RMS value change between before and after massage, or between rest and massage conditions. There was a significant increase in fatigue VAS at the end of the 2nd back extension with rest condition. There was a significant difference in fatigue VAS change between massage and rest condition.


A significant difference was observed between massage and rest condition on VAS for muscle fatigue. On EMG analysis, there were no significant differences to conclude that massage stimulation influenced the myoelectrical muscle fatigue, which is associated with metabolic and electrical changes.

Other studies investigating effects of massage on muscle functions

Keywords: delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), localized muscle fatigue, post exercise recovery, muscle strength, muscle recovery, electromyography (EMG), H reflex, alpha motor neuron excitability

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