Science discovers how massage affects cells after exercise

I love it when science deepens our understanding of something people know from experience to be true. The latest such finding to catch my eye is in my own field, massage therapy. People love massage and not all that much is actually known about how it affects the body’s systems or its long-term benefits.

Canadian scientists studied what actually happens at the cellular level when someone who has vigorously exercised gets a massage. Here’s an article explaining the study, and here’s the abstract for the research findings.

In short, massage applied to muscles after vigorous exercise reduces inflammation and promotes growth of energy-producing units (mitochondria) in muscle cells.

“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,” said Tarnopolsky. “This study provides evidence that manipulative therapies, such as massage, may be justifiable in medical practice.”

The researchers also busted the myth that massage reduces lactic acid, which builds up in cells during exercise and has been thought to contribute to muscle pain. Massage had no effect on lactic acid build-up.

Here’s something to look forward to:

One future research direction will be to examine the long-term effect of massage after a workout.