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May 20, 2021 3 min read

A Head to Head Comparison of the Effects and Benefits

Massage has long been considered as a go-to treatment for post-exercise muscle soreness due to the many beneficial effects it provides. Several techniques have been developed to achieve varying results, and innovation has also been slowly working its way through the industry by introducing massage tools powered by vibration technology to provide similar effects but in a more convenient way or even better massage experience than an actual manual massage does. This article summarizes what science has to say based on research comparing the effect of vibration therapy and manual massage on DOMS.

The effect on DOMS and its associated symptoms will be an appropriate gauge of the effectiveness for both massage and vibration. A lot of evidence proves that vibration therapy can improve muscular strength, power, and awareness of movement while improving performance and preventing DOMS. On the other hand, massage can reduce muscle tension, improving muscle compliance, while reducing muscle stiffness and improving circulation, and eventually decreasing muscle soreness.

On Muscle Soreness:  

Both massage and vibration therapy was effective in reducing muscle soreness following exercise. However, vibration therapy shows early recovery compare to massage at 24 hours following strenuous exercise.

  • Vibration therapy reduces pain perception via the Gate-Control Theory, the same principle by which Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) provides pain relief.
  • Massage reduces muscle overload, resulting in less structural damage and less pain perception.

On Maximal Isometric Force (MIF): 

There was no difference between massage and vibration therapy on their effect on MIF immediately and up to 72 hours following exercise. This means that both recovery methods recover isometric muscle strength, although this research didn’t demonstrate the adequate effect to recover pre-workout muscle strength.

NOTE: isometric strength means the ability to resist a weight or force without any movement.

On Range of Motion (ROM):  

Recovery of ROM  significant at 48 and 72 hours following exercise for both vibration therapy and massage.

  • Vibration causes synchronization of muscle fibers of a muscle group, producing a greater amount of force, leading to less reduction in ROM.
  • Massage mobilizes soft tissue adhesions, reducing stiffness in the muscle, restoring flexibility following exercise.

On One Repetition Maximum (1RM):  

Massage provides better results when given pre-workout as a preparatory and warm-up routine with less reduction and early recovery of isotonic muscle strength. Vibration therapy was unable to provide recovery of muscle strength, at least in this study.

NOTE: 1RM means the amount of weight you can carry only once. Isotonic means "same tension," that is, training with a constant weight.

On Creatine Kinase (CK):

CK has been linked with symptoms of DOMS and is increased with muscle damage. Both the pre-workout application of vibration and massage resulted in reduced amounts of CK in blood 48 hours after exercise.

  • Application of 50 Hz vibration before exercise causes less damage to muscle tissues, resulting in less CK in blood after 48 hours of post‑exercise.
  • Both post‑exercise vibration and massage therapy have shown a significant impact on CK level in post-eccentric exercise duration.

On Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH): 

LDH has been linked to the occurrence of muscle fatigue and damage. Application of vibration therapy resulted in significantly lesser LDH 48 hours of post‑exercise, while massage showed no effect on LDH levels.

  • Vibration increases surface temperature and blood flow, reducing the lactic acid accumulation and LDH activity level.
  • Massage is not effective at reducing LDH activity in the blood.

Takeaway: 

Both vibration therapy and massage therapy are effective in the prevention of DOMS, or at least reducing its symptoms. Massage is more effective in the recovery of muscle strength, while vibration therapy triumphs at pain and LDH reducing capacity following exercise. If you want these effects in one, try Recovapro! You’ll experience both massage and vibration therapy at the same time…

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