Seems intuitive, doesn’t it? After exercise a massage should help with recovery?
There is plenty of evidence of massage therapy helping with pain and recovery from injury, but until quite recently there was only anecdotal evidence of the effects of massage on healthy muscle tissue. Most (us included) relied on the fact that we knew so many athletes who swear by massage to help them recover after exercise.
In 2012 however, students at McMaster University conducted a study to test the idea and we thought it was worth repeating their findings here.
In the experiment, participants exercised to exhaustion on a stationary bike under lab conditions. Biopsies were taken from the legs of each poor participant before and after the exercise. Then, one thigh muscle of each person received 10 minutes of massage before biopsies were taken again (we don’t think that ten minutes of massage makes up for the pain of rest of the experiment, but they did somehow find some willing participants). A final biopsy was taken after 2.5 hours of recovery time.
The researchers compared the muscle tissue sample from the massaged and unmassaged legs to compare their repair processes, inflammation and progress in repair. The scientists observed tiny tears and indicators of inflammation immediately after exhausting the muscles.
Biopsies from the leg muscle which received the massage treatments showed that even though massage had no effect on muscle metabolites (glycogen, lactate), the massage had reduced the production of important inflammatory factors, and mitigated cellular stress resulting from myofiber injury.
The study concluded that when administered to muscle that has been damaged through exercise, massage therapy appears to be clinically beneficial by reducing inflammation and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis.
What’s more, the authors said, the anti-inflammatory signals released by massage also improved the ability of muscle cells to make new mitochondria (which convert food into energy essential for cell repair) which could explain how massage speeds up recovery in athletes with injured muscles.
So, rest assured, you can now rely on the evidence – as if you needed any more excuses to avoid the ice bath – and come to see us in central London for a post-workout massage.