Most of us know a massage feels really good when your muscles are tight, tired, and sore. Now science tells us the reasons why and how massage not only feels good, but can actually help us heal inflamed and damaged muscles.
According to research conducted at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, massage therapy triggers sensors in the body to send out inflammation-reducing signals. The researchers believe the stretching of the muscle is what prompts the signal and encourages the healing process. Contrary to popular belief, researchers do not believe the benefits of massage come from the clearing of lactic acid.
To conduct their study, researchers chose eleven men to observe. The men rode on bicycles for over an hour, until they could no longer continue. They were then allowed to rest for ten minutes. During their rest period a massage therapist massaged one of their legs. After the massage a muscle biopsy was taken from both quadriceps, massaged and not-massaged. The biopsy was repeated two and a half hours later.
The leg treated with massage was found to be much less inflamed than the untreated leg. Scientists believe this is due in part to the massage encouraging the muscles to construct mitochondria. Mitochondria are the “power plants” in human cells and are believed to play a role in the healing process. People with malfunctioning mitochondria can suffer from muscular atrophy and insulin resistance.
In conclusion, scientists believe massage could be a good alternative to pain medication for athletes looking to heal damaged muscles. In addition, because massage is causing an anti-inflammatory response, scientists are now also considering it as a way to help people suffering from arthritis, muscular dystrophy, and other chronic inflammatory diseases.