The effects of calf massage in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy: a prospective interventional study

Kate Carroll, Eppie M. Yiu, Monique M. Ryan, Rachel A. Kennedy, Katy de Valle

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Purpose: We explored the effects of standardized calf massage in ambulant boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) using a prospective study design. Materials and Methods: Twenty boys completed two study visits, 1 week apart. At both visits, each leg received a 10-min calf massage (intervention) and a 10-min control rest period (placebo) in randomized order. Muscle length of calf and hamstrings and gastrocnemius stiffness were measured by a blinded assessor before and after intervention and placebo. Measures of gait function (timed 10-m walk/run and spatio-temporal gait parameters); gastrocnemius muscle ultrasound findings; participant perception of leg pain, stiffness and effort of walking and general psychological well-being were also collected. Results: Consistent significant small increases in muscle length of soleus, gastrocnemius and hamstrings were recorded post-massage, and gastrocnemius stiffness decreased. Small changes in gastrocnemius and soleus length only were also recorded following the control rest period. Gait function and general well-being remained stable throughout. Measurement across both study visits suggested that gains in muscle length may be cumulative with repeated massage. Conclusions: Calf massage is safe and associated with benefits to muscle length and stiffness for ambulant boys with DMD.Implications for Rehabilitation In a small sample of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, calf massage was found to be safe, well-tolerated and associated with increased muscle length and decreased stiffness. The use of massage may assist in managing muscle length in boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3803-3809
Number of pages7
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number26
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • calf muscle
  • Duchenne muscular dystrophy
  • goniometry
  • massage
  • muscle stiffness
  • muscle ultrasound
  • myotonometry

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