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The Science Behind Massage's Benefits

Joe Mar 11, 2013

We all know massage makes us feel better and happier, and helps us recover more quickly from injuries, but new research now offers a fresh look into the actual physiology behind why massage is so beneficial.  ScienceNOW recently reported on Massage's Mystery Mechanism Unmasked.  The results suggest that massage suppresses the inflammation that follows exercise while promoting faster healing.  

In the study, researchers "recruited 11 young men willing to exercise in the name of science. The subjects underwent a grueling upright cycling session that left their muscles damaged and sore. Ten minutes after their workout, a massage therapist massaged one of their legs. Meanwhile, the researchers took tissue samples from the volunteers' quadriceps muscles—once before the workout, once 10 minutes after the massage, and once 3 hours after the workout—and compared the genetic profiles of each sample."

The results are compelling.  Researchers "detected more indicators of cell repair and inflammation in the post-workout samples than in the pre-workout samples. That didn't surprise them because scientists know that exercise activates genes associated with repair and inflammation. What did shock them were the clear differences between the massaged legs and the unmassaged ones after exercise. The massaged legs had 30% more PGC-1alpha, a gene that helps muscle cells build mitochondria, the 'engines' that turn a cell's food into energy. They also had three times less NFkB, which turns on genes associated with inflammation."

At Elements, we are passionate about massage and its benefits, and our regular clients already know how great our therapists make them feel.  This study helps us better understand the real cellular and genetic basis for recommending massage, and we think that's pretty cool science indeed.

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