Vigorous exercise can leave even trained athletes feeling achy a day or two later, a condition called "delayed onset muscle soreness." Sports massage is often recommended to ease the pain, although some studies have concluded it does not work.
Now, yet another study finds massage does reduce soreness--and that it is best done two hours after exercise.
In the study, 14 subjects exercised the biceps and triceps muscles of their non-dominant arm. Two hours later, seven subjects lay still while researchers applied cream to the exercised areas. The others lay still while researchers applied the same cream and gave them a half-hour massage.
The massaged group reported fewer muscle aches later, says Lucille L. Smith, exercise physiologist at East Carolina University and one of seven researchers who published the study in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy.
Massage probably works in part by reducing the movement of white blood cells to the exercised area, thought to be the first step in the inflammatory process leading to soreness, Smith speculates.