Researchers from McMaster University have shown the benefits of a message extend beyond the obvious feel good head effects, a muscle rub down provides muscles with a physiological lift.
Muscle in the mood
The team from McMaster focused their attention on the muscle benefits of massage, by analyzing the genetic mood of healthy muscles that had been massaged following a serious workout.
The study design required eleven young males to ride a stationary bicycle until their muscles couldn’t anymore. At the end of the “bike” ride – one leg got a therapeutic rub down, the other was left untouched.
Muscle mood in both legs was assessed by taking muscle biopsies
- before the work out,
- following the 10 minute massage after the bike ride and
- 2.5 hours after the exercise session ended.
Muscle pleasures and pains
A muscle rub down impacted the muscle’s mood after the workout.
Muscles receiving a little extra TLC, recovered a little quicker than those left untouched.
The rubbed down muscles showed
- Drops in the levels of inflammatory cytokines and
- Registered increased synthesis of mitochondria.
The mitochondria are tiny organelles inside cells which are the cell’s energy factories, more mitochondria mean more efficient better functioning cells overall.
Massage is a muscle analgesic/ aphrodisiac
This research suggests that massage therapy can act in the same way as an anti-inflammatory drug, but without the adverse effects. And possibly a few unexpected bonus effects.
Inflammatory cytokines are behind the aches and pains associated with overworked, tired, aching muscles.
Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as diclofenac and aspirin, are able to bring relief to upset muscles, by blocking the production of these inflammatory cytokines. The drugs do this by interfering with the enzymes tasked with making these chemicals.
Benefits beyond exercise
Sporty types have been aware of the pleasurable effects of a post workout massage for years and unwittingly exploited massage therapy’s anti-inflammatories capabilities.
Understanding the benefits of massage at a cellular level, expands the list of people who could benefit from massage therapy to include all those suffering from inflammatory conditions and neuropathies.
If you’re full of aches and pains, maybe it is time to replace the strong pain killer with a pair of strong hands.
Rubba dub dub.
PS. Unfortunately most medical aids seem to be cutting benefits, not expanding the range, so it might be a little difficult to persuade your medical aid to replace the NSAIDs with a massage.Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage. Sci Transl Med (2012) 4:119 119ra13. Justin D Crane, Daniel I. Ogborn, Colleen cupido, Simon Melov, Alan Hubbard, Jacquealine M. Bourgeois, Mark A Tarnopolsky.
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