Having a soothing massage after a workout does more than make you feel relaxed, new research has revealed.
Scientists have found that a massage mimics the action of pain-killing drugs, reducing inflammation at the molecular level and promoting growth of new mitochondria - the cells’ ‘energy factories’.
The researchers asked 11 young, male volunteers to exercise to the point of exhaustion for about 70 minutes on a treadmill.
Immediately after the exercise, a muscle biopsy was taken from the quad muscle in each leg of the participants to obtain samples from both massaged and non-massaged muscles.
A second biopsy was performed after 2.5 hours of recovery.
When the samples were analysed, it was found that the massaged muscles showed reduced signs of inflammation and an increased production of energy-generating mitochondria.
The findings, published in the science journal Science Translational Medicine, suggest the pain reduction associated with massage may involve the same mechanism as that employed by inflammatory drugs.
This is the first study to examine the effects of massage at a cellular or molecular level.
Lead researcher Dr Mark Tarnopolsky, MD, PhD, from the Department of Pediatrics and Medicine at McMaster University in Canada, said: "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.
"This study provides evidence that manipulative therapies, such as massage, may be justifiable in medical practice."