TUESDAY, July 3, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Massage is known to help heal muscle injury, but the degree of recovery may depend on certain factors, such as the timing of the treatment, according to the results of a study in rabbits.
The findings could one day lead to specific prescriptions for massage to help exercise-induced muscle injury in athletes, the researchers saID.
Knowing that massage therapy can ease muscle pain and weakness associated with exercise, the researchers from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center studied 24 white rabbits to determine the massage pressure, duration and timing needed to improve healing following a muscle injury.
In conducting the animal study, the researchers used a mechanical device that mimics movements associated with exercise and a second device that mimics a massaging motion. They compared different frequency, pressure and duration tests to determine their effect on muscle.
"We have translated what we thought was going on in humans, largely based on self-reporting, into the laboratory and designed the instrumentation to apply controllable and measurable forces," Dr. Thomas Best, co-director of OSU Sports Medicine, said in a university news release.
"We found if damaged muscle is massaged right away -- for 15 minutes -- there is a 20 to 40 percent chance of recovery. Initial injury in the animal model was extended if massage did not take place within 24 hours," Best explained in the news release.
While the findings hold promise, experts note that research involving animals frequently fails to lead to benefits for humans.
The study authors said their findings provide potential guidelines for future clinical trials.
"We're excited about the clinical implications of this research," said Best. "After testing in humans, we'll potentially be able to prescribe specifics for massage to help exercise-induced muscle injury in athletes."
The study was published online June 26 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about treatments for muscle strain.