Massage Reduces Pain Perception and Hyperalgesia in Experimental Muscle Pain: A Randomized, Controlled Trial – Source: Journal of Pain, May 1, 2008

[Note: myalgia is muscle pain; hyperalgesia is increased sensitivity to pain.]

Massage is a common conservative intervention used to treat myalgia [muscle pain]. Although subjective reports have supported the premise that massage decreases pain, few studies have systematically investigated the dose response characteristics of massage relative to a control group.

The purpose of this study was to perform a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial of the effects of massage on mechanical hyperalgesia [increased sensitivity to pain] (pressure pain thresholds, PPT) and perceived pain using delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as an endogenous model of myalgia.

Participants were randomly assigned to a no-treatment control, superficial touch, or deep-tissue massage group. Eccentric wrist extension exercises were performed at visit 1 to induce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) 48 hours later at visit 2.

  • Pain, assessed using visual analog scales (VAS), and pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) were measured at baseline, after exercise, before treatment, and after treatment.

  • Deep massage decreased pain (48.4% delayed onset muscle soreness reversal) during muscle stretch.

  • Mechanical hyperalgesia was reduced (27.5% reversal) after both the deep massage and superficial touch groups relative to control (increased hyperalgesia by 38.4%).

  • Resting pain did not vary between treatment groups.


  • This randomized, controlled trial suggests that massage is capable of reducing myalgia symptoms by approximately 25% to 50%, varying with assessment technique.

  • Thus, potential analgesia may depend on the pain assessment used.

  • This information may assist clinicians in determining conservative treatment options for patients with myalgia.

Source: Journal of Pain, May 1, 2008. E-pub ahead of print. PMID: 18455480, by Frey Law LA, Evens S, Knudtson J, Nus S, Scholl K, Sluka KA. Program in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA. [E-mail]

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