Is massage really helpful?

The Issue:

Massage is a popular method for relaxing and fatigue recovery around the world. Most people find that massage is comfortable and enjoyable, but why and how is it beneficial to your body? The idea behind massage is “myofasical release”, which is often used as a alternative medicine thearpy for myofascial pain. To understand how it works; first of all, we need to know what fasica is. Fasica is a tissue surround and  support muscle throughout the body[1]. Since the thread of fasica is connected and tightened, when the body get injured at one spot, the effect spreads to other place of the body. Thus sometimes patients experience pain at one spot, but the pain originates from other spot in the body. When one spot in the body get injured, the body react to protect the itself by reduce blood flow and contract muscle around that injured area. However, the initial good thing can create pain because more reduced blood contracted muscle at the restricted area. The myofasical release therapy which in form of various type of massage is focus on smoothing out the contracted area, and let fasica tissue return to its original flexible fluid self[2]. However, there are also voice claims that myofasical release therapy lack of evidence and is a quackery. So will myofasical like massage really help patients release myofasical pain? let’s check some research result and find out.

Figure 1: this picture shows where the fascia is.


Scientific evidence:

The first article, “Modeled Osteopathic Manipulative Treatments: A Review of their in Vitro Effects on Fibroblast Tissue Preparations.” published by The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA) suggests the possibility of myofasical release (MFR) aiding in the strengthening of the area. The research look into the magnitude and duration of the MFR therapy in order to find out the effectiveness of MFR therapy. Researchers hold strain magnitude constant at 6% and try different magnitude (3%, 6%, 9%, and 12%) and duration(0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 minutes) of MFR. The result suggests production of extracellular matrix proteins such as collagen may be up regulated with  greater-magnitude (12%) treatment.

Another article “Effects of myofascial release techniques on pain, physical function, and postural stability in patients with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial” also support the evidence that myofascial release make a positive effect on fibromyalgia syndrome like pain, postural stability and physical function by comparing random assigned experimental group and a placebo group. After 20 weeks of myofasical therapy, there is a great improvement in painful tender points, McGill Pain Score, physical function, and clinical severity. Also, according to the six month late post intervention, the experimental group had a significant lower mean number of painful points, pain score, physcial function, and clinical severity. One limitation of this research is the lack of postural stability text with a higher level of difficulty, another limitation is that the therapist who administered both intervention protocols and the patients themselves could not be blinded.



According to the research above, it seems MFR therapy has a positive effect on myofasial pain. The MFR itself is safe and does not have side effect. Thus, lots of people might consider it as a alternative therapy especially those who don’t want surgery. Both research offer scientific evidence to support the benefits of MFR therapy. However, there also could be limitation for those research so they could also sometimes be inaccurate. Overall, MFR therapy is recommended since it does not have side effect, and it is indeed a comfortable method to relax.



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3 thoughts on “Is massage really helpful?

  1. From my personal experience, massage after exercise reduce the sourness of the muscle. Also, I think it could be considered a passive stretch which could be beneficial after injury.

  2. Self-myofascial release, in the form of foam-rolling, has become a popular pre-and-post exercise routine for many. A study published in a 2014 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research demonstrated a significant reduction in post-exercise fatigue for a group that foam-rolled before athletic tests versus planking. Not only may it be good for pain management, though, but from a 2013 study in the same journal : “Our results strongly show that an acute bout of foam rolling greatly improves joint ROM with no concomitant detrimental effects on neuromuscular force production.”

    Back when I was an athlete, I found foam-rolling essential to warding off soreness and maintaining flexibility, so I anecdotally agree with the effectiveness of MFR.

  3. I found this interesting as I’ve only ever viewed massages as a form of relaxation to loosen the muscles. The results regarding upregulation of collagen were especially surprising and I’d be interested to see how this could be implemented into a sports regimen for improved performance.

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