THE BENEFITS OF SELF-MASSAGE: WHAT SCIENCE TELLS US 

Massage is strongly recommended for sports recovery; it is often said to “help improve recovery” but has this actually been proven? Is massage, in this case self-massage and the use of self-massage accessories, really beneficial for recovery? We wanted to find out more...

We asked Rodolphe Testa, a biomechanics engineer at Saint Etienne Faculty of Medicine, to focus on the issue. He has provided a summary of his research on numerous scientific articles studying the effect of massage in the recovery process.

 

Here is a summary of the literature review by: R Testa( PhD, biomechanics specialist, IRMIS, Saint-Etienne Faculty of Medicine) and J Rossi (PhD, lecturer, Université de Saint-Etienne) on self-massage using roller tools.

1/ WHAT IS A LITERATURE REVIEW?

It is a research task performed on all published international scientific articles (often in English). Firstly, keywords were selected and related (FOAM ROLLER, ROLLER MASSAGER, SELF MASSAGE) from specific academic search engines (pubmed, sciencedirect, etc.). Some articles are more significant than others (literature reviews and meta-analyses) as they present and analyse the results of several other studies. They have been edited since 2015 so we limited our search to 2015 (28 articles). Finally, the main results on the topic were ordered and presented.

Massage is an ancestral therapeutic practice whose origins trace back to 2,500 years ago in China. Its benefits have been extolled in all cultures for millennia. More recently, with the arrival of modern medicine, many laboratories have studied the techniques and expected or proven effects of massage. This research has produced a wide range of scientific articles. Self-massage tools are more and more popular in the area of sports and well-being. They use similar techniques and are often studied themselves. We have conducted a literature review of these articles and you will find a summary of our results below.

kit-massage

2/ PRINCIPLES OF MASSAGE THERAPY

According to Weerapong's study in 2005, self-massage has been proven to have 4 types of benefits: 

- Biomechanical: mechanical pressure => temporary increase in range of motion (increased flexibility).

- Physiological: changes in tissues => temperature increase. Change in hormonal balance promoting relaxation and well-being. 

- Neurological: reflex stimulation => decrease in neuromuscular excitability leading to reduced pain.

- Psychological: users report increased relaxation, which may be linked to the physiological and neurological effects of the massage.

3/ MAIN EFFECTS OF SELF-MASSAGE USING ROLLERS

1. INCREASED RANGE OF MOTION

Self-massage of muscle groups and fasciae leads to increased range of motion in nearby joints. This effect has been shown in several areas of the body by various studies. Self-massage is beneficial when used as a warm-up for sports requiring good mobility. It can also be used for recovery in sports resulting in reduced range of motion. Its impact is increased when combined with stretching. Based on the scientific articles of Cheatham 2015, Beardsley 2015, Schroeder 2015, Kelly 2016, Fairall 2017, Cheatham 2018, Rivera 2019, Wiewelhove 2019. 

 

2. IMPROVED RECOVERY

Self-massage helps recovery. Studies show better resumption of performance ability for explosive activities, with tests conducted on sprint and jump (Wiewelhove 2019). There is also reduction of pain after self-massage (Wiewelhove 2019). The reduction is comparable to that obtained from neurodynamic mobilisation by a physiotherapist (Romero Moraleda 2017).

 

Sources

Weerapong 2005 The Mechanisms of Massage and Effects on Performance, Muscle Recovery and Injury Prevention

Cheatman 2018 Knowledge of self-myofascial release among allied health students in the United States: A descriptive survey

Fairall 2017 Acute effects of self-myofascial release and stretching in overhead athletes with GIRD

Moraleda 2017 Neurodynamic mobilization and foam rolling improved delayed-onset muscle soreness in a healthy adult population: a randomized controlled clinical trial

Rivera 2019 Comparison of Myofascial Release Techniques on Pectoralis Minor Length, Glenohumeral Total Arc of Motion, and Skin Temperature: A Pilot Study

Schroeder 2015 Is Self Myofascial Release an Effective Preexercise and Recovery Strategy? A Literature Review

Beardsley 2015 Effects of self-myofascial release: A systematic review

Kelly 2016 SPECIFIC AND CROSS-OVER EFFECTS OF FOAM ROLLING ON ANKLE DORSIFLEXION RANGE OF MOTION

Wiewelhove 2019 A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Foam Rolling on Performance and Recovery

 

Rodolphe Testa

Biomechanics engineer at Saint-Etienne, Faculty of Medicine

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