Massage has been practiced for thousands of years, but there has been little medical research on its biological benefits. Scientists have finally proven what fans of massage have long known: a good rub down not only feels good — it can help ease muscle pain.
Researchers in Canada and California collaborated on a study which proved that massage reduces inflammation and helps muscle cells recover from strenuous exercise. Eleven healthy young men had biopsies performed on their leg muscles before an intense workout on a stationary bike. After peddling to exhaustion, each participant had one of his legs massaged for ten minutes. Researchers then did another round of biopsies on the men’s quadriceps, and compared muscle tissue from the massaged and un-massaged legs.
“Our research showed that massage dampened the expression of inflammatory cytokines in the muscle cells and promoted biogenesis of mitochondria, which are the energy-producing units in the cells,” said Simon Melov, PhD, a study co-author at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California. “There’s general agreement that massage feels good, now we have a scientific basis for the experience.”
Melov believes the reduction in pain that comes from massage is similar to the pain relief that comes from taking anti- inflammatory medicine.