Massage Doesn’t Work

If you are like so many others around you, you likely made your annual resolution to start working out; again. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s one of the most popular resolutions every year. If you are still fulfilling your resolution (most fail within the first 3 weeks), you are likely experiencing some physical reactions to your workouts. This soreness that you are feeling is not akin to just you. You are most definitely NOT alone in how stiff, sore and achy your body is feeling after hitting the gym this past week. What you are experiencing is what is known as DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This is phenomenon is not reserved only for the new gym goers. It is common for even the most seasoned of athletes to experience this type of feeling after a rigorous workout.

DOMS is a very peculiar physiological occurrence in our body that even in today’s scientific community, no one really quite knows the exact reasons why it happens, how to avoid it from happening or better yet, how to get rid of it quickly when it does. Most DOMS occurs 24-48 hours after a workout. Sometimes it can take up to 72 hours to set in. Many people who are not accustomed to DOMS start to get worried that they may have actually injured themselves. DOMS can make the muscles we worked sore, but can also cause neighboring muscles to become achy and weak. It’s common for people to think that it is much more than simple post gym soreness. Some think that they are getting the flu because the muscle achiness and weakness is all over and not just in the area they trained. Couple that with the fact that it’s the dead of winter (cold and flu season) and it’s easy to take such a leap.

Consider what is happening to your body a case of ‘muscle fever’. Your system is overridden by a chemical onslaught of activity geared to help combat the (good) destruction you caused your muscles. The mechanical stress you have placed upon yourself, albeit good for you in the long run, is making you remember why you hated to work out to begin with. So, being a loyal member or guest of The Boston Bodyworker, you think, I WILL GET A MASSAGE!

As you can imagine, I am the first to boast about all the wonderful benefits a massage can provide you. However, I will be first in line to dispel any myths about what massage CANNOT do. The Boston Bodyworker is an evidenced based practice, as such; it is our commitment to provide you with a service that is of benefit to your complete wellness goals. There are many myths about what massage can and cannot do and over the course of 2016, I will delve into many of them so you are aware of just what we can do for you and what else you should consider if massage is not going to be helpful.

In this case, the idea of getting a massage to get rid of your DOMS, it has been proven time and again to be of little known benefit. A 2012 review by Torres et al, which looked at the results of nine studies of massage, concluded that it is “ slightly effective” but “its mean effect was too small to be of clinical relevance.”

So than what should I do? Should you start popping “Vitamin I (ibuprofen)”?

Nope. The science also tells us that in the case of DOMS, there is no real inflammation to combat either. In a 2006 study on ultra-marathoners who swore that taking “Vitamin I” prior to their events was there means of avoiding DOMS, proved beyond a doubt that it had no impact.

“The study concluded that Ibuprofen failed to reduce muscle pain or soreness, and blood tests revealed that ibuprofen takers actually experienced greater levels of inflammation than those who eschewed the drug, said David Nieman, director of Human Performance lab at Appalachian State University. There is absolutely no reason for runners to be using ibuprofen.”

curcuminAlas, there is some encouraging news to deliver to your sore and achy body, as you get frustrated from reading this post and may be considering your resolution a bust. My professional advice would be to grab some take-out Indian food! Yes, the latest science on Curcumin, a spice commonly found in Indian dishes such as curry, is not just great in reducing inflammation (which we determined DOMS is not), but has been shown to be a great means for reducing pain. As I have recommended for years to my athletes who want to see me the day after their intense competition; stay hydrated and go for a long walk. As it is with everything having to do with our physical health, we must keep hydrated and moving. Get those tired, achy, tight, sore muscles moving to promote some blood flow. This will assist your body in its recovery. Perhaps consider ordering your take-out and walking to the restaurant to pick it up.

Special Note: please consult this months ‘Life Hack’ before traversing the frozen tundra of your neighborhood.

I hope you all had a Happy New Year. I look forward to sharing more with you in 2016 about massage, its common myths and whatever other topics you are interested in knowing about.