According to a study published online in Science Translational Medicine by researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario, massages aid the growth of new mitochondria in skeletal muscle, and help to reduce inflammation. Many athletes would attest to the fact that massages help in treating pain, and speed up recovery, but now scientists have the evidence to go along with their testimonies.
The researchers looked at the genetic data of muscle biopsies taken from 11 young men’s quadriceps after strenuous exercise sessions on a stationary bike. One of the 11 men was chosen to have one of his legs massaged. Prior to the massage, biopsies had been taken of both legs, another was taken 10 minutes after the massage, and the third, 2.5 hours later.
Simon Melov, PhD, a member of the Buck Institute faculty, analyzed the tissue samples. He commented:
“Our research showed that massage dampened the expression of inflammatory cytokines in the muscle cells and promoted biogenesis of mitochondria, which are the energy-producting units in the cells. There’s general agreement that massage feels good, now we have a scientific basis for the experience.”
Melov also said that the reduction of pain due to massages may be closely related to the reduction of pain due to anti-inflammatory medicine.
Lead author Mark Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD from the Department of Pediatrics and Medicine stated that the findings show “the much needed validation for a practice that is growing in popularity.” He concludes:
“The potential benefits of massage could be useful to a broad spectrum of individuals including the elderly, those suffering from musculoskeletal injuries and patients with chronic inflammatory disease. This study provides evidence that manipulative therapies, such as massage, may be justifiable in medical practice.”
Massage therapy is the 5th most globally used form of alternative medicine – with about 18 million people taking part in massage therapy methods. Although there have been studies that say long-term massage therapy can help with range of motion and chronic pain, the biological benefits of massage for skeletal tissue were previously unclear.
This study was funded by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, and a donation from the Warren Lammert family. Other researchers involved in this study include: Justin D. Crane, Daniel I. Ogborn, Colleen Cupido and Jacqueline M. Bourgeois.
Written by Christine Kearney