Part of the benefits of a massage are it eases inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces muscle tightness. But how does massage suppress inflammation and enhance cell recovery, helping heal sore muscles?

A study has been done having people exercise to exhaustion and undergo five incisions in their legs in order to obtain muscle tissue for analysis. Their muscles were tested at rest mode, then after running vigorously for 1 hour, then they got one leg massaged for 10 minutes and the other one left to recover on its own and tested, and lastly, tested again after 2.5 hours of rest to track the process of muscle injury and repair.

Vigorous exercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibers, leading to an immune reaction — inflammation — as the body gets to work repairing the injured cells. So the researchers screened the tissue from the massaged and unmassaged legs to compare their repair processes, and find out what difference massage would make.

They found that massage reduced the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation.

“This is important research, because it is the first to show that massage can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines which may be involved in pain,” said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School.  “We have known from many studies that pain can be reduced by massage based on self-report, but this is the first demonstration that the pain-related pro-inflammatory cytokines can be reduced.” she said.


Read the whole article at NY Times

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