Immunomodulatory effects of massage on nonperturbed skeletal muscle in rats

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25 Scopus citations


Massage is an ancient manual therapy widely utilized by individuals seeking relief from various musculoskeletal maladies. Despite its popularity, the majority of evidence associated with massage benefits is anecdotal. Recent investigations have uncovered physiological evidence supporting its beneficial use following muscle injury; however, the effects of massage on healthy, unperturbed skeletal muscle are unknown. Utilizing a custom-fabricated massage mimetic device, the purpose of this investigation was to elucidate the effects of various loading magnitudes on healthy skeletal muscle with particular interest in the gene expression profile and modulation of key immune cells involved in the inflammatory response. Twenty-four male Wistar rats (200 g) were subjected to cyclic compressive loading (CCL) over the right tibialis anterior muscle for 30 min, once a day, for 4 consecutive days using four loading conditions: control (0N), low load (1.4N), moderate load (4.5N), and high load (11N). Microarray analysis showed that genes involved with the immune response were the most significantly affected by application of CCL. Load-dependent changes in cellular abundance were seen in the CCL limb for CD68+ cells, CD163+ cells, and CD43+ cells. Surprisingly, load-independent changes were also discovered in the non-CCL contralateral limb, suggesting a systemic response. These results show that massage in the form of CCL exerts an immunomodulatory response to uninjured skeletal muscle, which is dependent upon the applied load.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-175
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2014


  • Cyclic compressive loading
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophage
  • Mechanosensitivity
  • Neutrophil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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