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Why does pressing on sore muscles feel good?

March 08, 2021 4 min read

Wondering how massage helps sore muscle? Here’s what you need to know about sore muscles and the effect of massage on them.


Muscle soreness is an uncomfortable condition in which your muscles are tender to touch. You may experience tiredness or a burning sensation. You may feel tightness and pain in your muscles.


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Possible causes of muscle soreness

There can be many reasons for muscle soreness. Some of them are discussed here. Exercise is the most common cause of muscle soreness. Muscle soreness occurs as a result of stress on muscles after a strenuous exercise. 

Athletes or people in the gym after a workout experience sore muscles. Sore muscles after exercise can be discouraging to do a workout again. But, you don’t need to be worried. It’s a normal physiological reaction of your body to vigorous exercise. 

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Muscle soreness due to exercise is categorized into two types. One is delayed onset muscle soreness, and the other is acute muscle soreness. Symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness, as the name suggests, start appearing after a workout, usually within 12-24 hours. The mechanism involves disruption of muscle fibers, increase in intracellular enzymes and inflammatory markers that cause swelling.

While acute muscle soreness occurs during exercise, the cause of acute muscle soreness is an accumulation of lactic acid that builds up during a workout. Acute muscle soreness usually disappears immediately after the exercise is stopped.

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But muscle soreness due to other reasons is something you should be conscious about. Chronic muscle fatigue, a condition that causes fatigue, tiredness, and headache, can develop muscle soreness. Fibromyalgia is also associated with muscle soreness that causes pain throughout the body. Lymes’s disease and some infections are also the reason for muscle soreness. 


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Symptoms of muscle soreness

Muscle soreness causes muscles to become stiff. It causes pain and swelling in the affected area. Short-term loss of muscle strength occurs due to it. Muscle soreness can also be the reason behind muscle fatigue. Your muscles also feel tender to touch. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be muscle soreness.

How to relieve muscle soreness?

Muscle soreness is a condition that causes discomfort and pain. To stay active, you have to find a way to deal with it, especially if it’s not due to exercise. 

There are many ways to deal with it. You can use analgesic drugs, but they have side effects. Heat and cold baths and massage are also useful to relieve muscle soreness. Here we will discuss how massage relieves muscle soreness. 

Massage is a common practice for therapeutic purposes for thousands of years. Many physiotherapists suggest that patients receive massage to get rid of muscle soreness. 

An article published inExercise Physiology suggests that people who take massages after 24 hours of strenuous exercise develop less sore muscles as compared to those who did not take it. The study also reported a decline in serum level of creatine kinase, an enzyme associated with muscle soreness.

How pressing helps relieve muscle soreness?

Massage includes manipulating the body's soft tissue with the help of hands, elbow, knee, and foot. It involves pressing the body and applying varying amounts of pressure on specific parts of the body. By using pressure through pressing skin activates many acupressure points, which help the body to heal.

Increase temperature 

Rubbing the body during a massage raises the temperature of that part of the body where massage is applied. Heat dilates the blood vessels and increases blood flow locally due to the release of nitric oxide. Increased blood flow delivers a high amount of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle cells, thus preventing muscles from injury and improving muscle performance and endurance. An increased blood flow removes excess lactic acid from muscles; it helps treat muscle soreness.

A study by theArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitationreported improved muscular function following a massage. Healthy individuals were asked to do the exercise using a standard leg press machine to develop soreness. After that, half of the group received Swedish massage on their legs. The results conclude no soreness in participants who received massage.

Increase lymphatic flow

There are many kinds of massage techniques that increase lymphatic flow. Compression on the skin in a certain way increases lymphatic drainage, which speeds up removing waste products from muscles to blood. It decreases inflammation as it is a build-up of excess fluid and waste products in tissue. 

It also speeds up the recovery of the injured muscle, which is slowed down by the accumulation of waste material. Increased lymphatic flow helps decrease pain, fatigue, weakness, and muscle soreness.

Increase parasympathetic flow

An article published inthe Journal of Physiological Sciencessuggests that increased parasympathetic activity decreases muscle fatigue. 

There are many trigger points that correspond to a specific part of the body. Some of these trigger points, when stimulated, enhance parasympathetic outflow. Parasympathetic stimulation regulates many body changes, which decrease pain and muscle strain, thus reducing muscle soreness.

Releases serotonin and endorphins 

Massage is well known for promoting relaxation. It does this by releasing happy hormones, which include serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Serotonin binds with serotonergic receptors in the brain and produces feelings of happiness.

Dopamine binds its receptors and activates the reward system, and brings pleasure. Endorphins are released during stress and pain. They bind to opiate receptors in the brain and decrease the sensation of pain and reduce anxiety.  It is how you feel good during the massage


Muscle soreness is a condition that causes discomfort. Muscles become tender to touch, cause pain, stiffness, and swelling. Exercise is the most common cause of muscle soreness. But it can also occur due to chronic muscle disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, etc. Massage is a way to improve muscle health, ease muscle tension and treat muscle soreness. Pressing sore muscles activates acupressure points that help them to heal. Increased blood flow and lymphatic drainage removes excess waste from muscle tissue, decreases swelling, and increases recovery. It also increases parasympathetic activity. It is associated with the release of happy hormones that makes you feel good while massaging. Endorphins decrease the perception of pain.

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