After strenuous physical activity, it’s been shown that massages make you feel better. Massage therapy is used during physical rehabilitation of skeletal muscles to aid in pain management and promote recovery from injury. However, a new study in Science Translational Medicine indicates that getting a massage doesn’t just feel good, it will actually bolster chemical signals to reduce inflammation and promoting the repair of muscle cells.
Vigorous exercise will actually tear muscle fibers, which is why it can take days to recuperate from intense workouts. The tears heal over time. The researchers wanted to study how massages affect muscle damage since it wasn’t known how massages affected cellular function.
Justing D. Crane, from the Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, and his colleagues took a look at different mRNA transcripts in tissue samples from their experimental subjects and discovered that compared to non-massaged muscles, a massaged muscle has different levels of two key proteins. They have less NFkB, which reduces inflammation, and more PGC-1α, which leads to the creation of more mitochondria that generate energy for cell growth.
While massages are one of the most common forms of alternative medicine since they reduce pain, the study actually shows that massages change gene expression and reduce inflammation which in turn makes them clinically beneficial to patients.
Reference: “Massage Therapy Attenuates Inflammatory Signaling After Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage” by Justin D. Crane, Daniel I. Ogborn, Colleen Cupido, Simon Melov, Alan Hubbard, Jacqueline M. Bourgeois and Mark A. Tarnopolsky, 1 February 2012, Science Translational Medicine.