The field of massage has slowly gained a reputation for being physically beneficial beyond stress relief. A recent study builds on other findings, showing specifically that receiving a massage after exercise decreases inflammation and helps your muscles recover. Not only does it relieve the soreness, it also works on the underlying problem of the pain.
Receiving massage turned on genes that created more mitochondria, the manufacturers of energy inside your cells. The more fit a muscle cell is, the more mitochondria there is inside it. This shows that massage not only helped the muscles recover form the workout, but also aided in making the muscle stronger. “If someone starts an endurance exercise training program, after two or four months of training, depending on the intensity, you essentially double the volume of mitochondria in muscle,” says researcher Mark A. Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD, a professor of pediatrics and head of Neuromuscular and Neurometabolic Disease at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Markers also indicated that massage turned on the genes that decrease inflammation. Many painkilling medications work to block inflammation. In recent years, a number of studies have shown that remedies for muscle soreness that work by decreasing inflammation, such as ice baths or anti-inflammatory medications, may have a downside. They block muscle repair and growth, which needs inflammation to complete the process. “People were starting to feel it was a one-to-one link: You suppress inflammation, you [lessen] adaptation,” says Tarnopolsky. “But this appears to be an intervention that suppresses the inflammatory response but still allows, and actually enhances, the [recovery] response.” The study is published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. If further research can duplicate and expand on these findings, Tarnopolsky says that would mean that massage may be uniquely beneficial to muscle recovery and muscle growth.