Wednesday, February 6, 2013

More Help for Sore Muscles: The Thumper

The Thumper Sport
I still like foam rollers for working the soreness out of large muscle groups like the back and the upper legs because the weight of your body helps you to work into those areas (see “Foam Rollers:  Help for Sore Muscles”).  But for smaller body parts, like the very top of the back and the biceps muscles, the rollers aren’t much help so I decided to try a percussion massager.  The first one I got was a HoMedics device for about $40.  It worked pretty well but started making an ominous noise after a couple of months so I took it back to Bed, Bath, and Beyond (thanks to their liberal returns policy).  That experience was enough to persuade me that these machines can really be useful so I decided to invest in a Thumper.

This massager is the descendant of the first deep muscle percussion massager, produced in 1974, which was based on research by Canadian chiropractor Lyman Johnson.  The Thumper is still made in Canada and the company now produces a whole line of massage-related products, including one for horses! I got the simplest one, the Sport Percussive Massager, which came with good instructions, including a DVD demonstrating its use.  The only drawback is that the Thumper is pricey; I paid about $140 on Amazon.  On days when I don’t use the foam roller I use the Thumper on my back, arms and legs, and even my hands and feet.  You hold it on each spot for less than a minute so the whole process doesn’t take long.  It definitely loosens up stiffness and helps me to relax in the evening.  It seems to be well made and has a two-year warranty, an indication that the company is serious about quality.  

Four years ago Mark Tarnopolsky a neurometabolic researcher at McMaster University injured a hamstring in a waterskiing accident.  He was so impressed with the effects of massage in improving his condition that he decided to explore the underlying mechanisms that cause it to work.  “They found that massage reduced the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation. Massage also stimulated mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses inside cells that convert glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair.”  So massage both suppresses inflammation and promotes faster healing.  “Basically, you can haveyour cake and eat it too,” said Tarnopolsky.  Researchers found no basis for the claim that massage removes lactic acid from muscles.

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