Why get a massage? Well, as it feels good, for one thing. But many people also hop on the table with the hope that massage therapy can help boost muscle recuperation after a demanding workout or provide other benefits.
Nobody has looked closely at what massage does to muscle at a cellular or molecular level, nevertheless. Researchers set out to do just that, as well as their findings are released in Science Translational Medicine.
The researchers exercised 11 young men to debilitation over about 70 minutes, then massaged a single leg (determined at random for every man) for ten minutes. A muscle biopsy was received by the subjects in both quad muscles to gather samples for massaged and non-massaged legs. The biopsy was repeated following a 2.5-hour rest period.
The samples were analyzed by researchers in the different legs to see what was going on following the massage. They found two major changes: decreased indications of inflammation, and an increase in creation of mitochondria, the cell’s energy factories.
Checked generation of inflammatory molecules “may reduce pain by exactly the same mechanism as conventional anti-inflammatory drugs” like aspirin and ibuprofen, the writers write.
The authors say any gain in the number of mitochondria can promote better recovery after having a tough exercise session. That finding also means that massage after exercise may help enrich endurance, says Mark Tarnopolsky, a writer of the study and a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University Medical Center in Hamilton, Ont. Nailing down that link would demand further research, says Tarnopolsky.
The study didn’t turn up any signals that massage flushes out lactic acid from the muscle, he says.