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The Benefits of Massage Therapy

Everyone knows that a good massage feels great, but recent studies have indicated the health benefits may stretch beyond temporary feelings of pleasure. It has been shown that massages can help reduce muscle tension and pain but a new study found they also reduce inflammation within the muscle. It is the first to actually examine how massage affects the mechanics and functioning of muscles.

The study suggests that massages work on a cellular level in reducing inflammation, much like medication. The process works by triggering biochemical sensors that send inflammation-reducing signals to the muscle cells. It also works by signaling the muscles to construct additional mitochondria, the power centers of cells that play a central role in healing.

The study was conducted by a professor of pediatric medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and involved 11 men in their twenties. They were subjected to vigorous exercise on a stationary bike until the point of exhaustion, after which one leg would be massaged. According to muscle biopsies taken before and after, the muscle tissue of the massaged leg has a decreased amount of inflammatory cytokines and an increase in mitochondria. Typically, mitochondria are a sign of tissue recovery and inflammation is a sign of tissue damage.

The study’s findings are important because it could alter the way we treat muscle injuries. The typical non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs tend to mask the pain but may also hinder actual repair. A massage on the other hand can reduce pain and actually assist in muscle and tissue repair. A professional massage is indeed costlier than taking an aspirin, but fortunately you can teach yourself or a family member the right technique for an in-home massage.

There are many websites offering advice and techniques on massage therapy. Massages will help speed the recovery of your muscles after working out, playing a sport or incurring an injury. Be sure to consult a physician if a sports-related injury persists.

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