Massage Eases Inflammation In Worn-Out Muscles | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Massage Eases Inflammation In Worn-Out Muscles

Super Bowl players and weekend jocks routinely head for the massage table after competition, figuring it helps reduce muscle soreness.

That search for relief has been more out of hope than based in fact.

But scientists now say that massage reduces inflammation caused by exercise, making a rubdown nature's answer to Advil.

"I was surprised," says Simon Melov, an associate professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., and one of the researchers on a study looking at the anti-inflammatory properties of massage. "I wasn't expecting to see anything."

Now, it's true the study involved only 11 men. But the scientists didn't just ask the volunteers how they felt. The stuck needles in the volunteers' legs to biopsy their quadriceps muscles.

The men exercised hard, riding a stationary bike until they could ride no more. After that, one leg got a 10-minute massage. The researchers compared muscle cells from the two legs at a very deep level.

They found that the massaged muscles produced fewer cytokines, proteins that can cause swelling and soreness. Those lucky muscles also made more new mitochondria, which produce energy in the body's cells. The findings published online in Science Translational Medicine.

That last part really interests Melov, who studies diseases that damage mitochondria. With more mitochondria, he says, the massaged muscles would be able to work harder in the future.

They could probably recover faster from the damage caused by strenuous exercise, too. "It raises the intriguing possibility that massage could be used as an adjunct therapy where there's muscle damage as part of the disease process," Melov says.

But for now, it's probably enough to know that we weekend athletes can help stave off soreness with the pleasure of a massage. Interestingly, the researchers found that massage had no effect at all on the amount of lactic acid in muscles. Lactic acid is a byproduct of exertion, and is widely thought by us civilians to cause muscle soreness.

"I've often had massages, and the therapist says, 'let's get this let me get this lactic acid out of you,'" Melov says. "I don't know what the genesis of that is."

One intriguing side note: Study co-author Mark Tarnopolsky is a pediatrician at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., who happens to be a world-class cross-country ski racer.

Tarnopolsky told Shots he was inspired to do this study after having massages as part of recovery from a serious hamstring injury. They must have helped: he's in Lake Tahoe today to compete in the ski orienteering World Cup.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

As Summer Winds Down, Wistful Dreams Of A 'Lost Estate'

The scent of fresh pencils is in the air, and homework assignments are around the corner. In honor of back-to-school season, author Alexander Aciman recommends The Lost Estate by Henri Alain-Fournier.
NPR

A Food Crisis Follows Africa's Ebola Crisis

Food shortages are emerging in the wake of West Africa's Ebola epidemic. Market shelves are bare and fields are neglected because traders can't move and social gatherings are discouraged.
WAMU 88.5

McDonnell Corruption Trial: Former Gov Defends Relationship With Jonnie Williams

On the stand today, the former Virginia governor defended his relationship with the businessman at the heart of the trial, saying it was appropriate.
NPR

Coming Soon To A Pole Near You: A Bike That Locks Itself

Cyclists may soon have a convenient way to discourage bike thieves, thanks to new designs that use parts of the bikes themselves as locks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.