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Treat Exercise Soreness and Aches with More Exercise, Study Reports

Update Date: Apr 12, 2013 01:21 PM EDT

Rigorous exercise often leaves the body sore with muscles aches days after the workouts, prompting many people to enlist the help of masseuses. Massages and soaking in hot water are two extremely popular remedies for soreness, with the first option holding the number one spot for easing post-work out pains. According to new research, spending those extra bucks for a good massage might not be needed any more. This new study suggests that exercising the pains away can be as effective as getting a massage.

"It is a common belief that massage is better, but it isn't. In fact, massage and exercise have the same benefits," the lead author of the study, Lars Andersen stated.

The study, headed by Andersen, who is a professor at the National Research Center for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, Denmark, recruited 20 female participants. The women were asked to exercise their shoulders with a resistance machines that targeted the area between the neck and the shoulders known as the trapezius muscles. The participants were required to return to the lab after two days, and they all reported to experiencing aching trapezius muscles. The participants were required to measure their levels of pain on a ten-point scale, and the average of them stated that the soreness was at a level five.

The researchers then split the women up into two groups randomly. The first group received a massage treatment on one shoulder first and then was required to do a recovery exercise work out on the other shoulder. The other group was asked to exercise first before receiving the massage on different shoulders. The recovery exercise routine was able to focus on one shoulder because it required the participant to grip an elastic tube on one side of the body that was extended to their foot in order to create resistance.

The researchers found that both treatments lead to similar results, and that massage therapy did not necessarily alleviate more pain than exercise. The researchers recorded that women stated to feeling a reduction in pain by 0.8 points after the recovery exercise routine and 0.7 after the massage. Although the study relied solely on the participants' numerical understanding of pain, which can be quite limiting, the findings still manage to suggest that exercise did make muscle aches go away. Exercising and treating soreness are important so that people do not become overwhelmed by the pain and aches and let those factors stop them from actively moving around.

"By reducing soreness, [athletes] could be able to perform better, but we didn't measure this. If you're sore, your movements are very stiff and it's difficult to perform," Andersen stated. Andersen now recommends light exercise for people who do not want to get massages.

The study was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

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