In the experiments, researchers found that “massaged muscle cells had higher activation of gene pathways that spur mitochondria,” as well as “fewer signs of painful inflammation.”
However, “massage didn’t lower levels of lactic acid build-up in muscles often blamed for the ‘burn’ in exercise.”
The Los Angeles Times reports, “Massage also seemed to help cells recover by boosting amounts of another protein called PGC-1alpha, which spurs production of new mitochondria.”
The Times adds that according to researcher Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, “exercise is the best way to reverse damage caused by common conditions including diabetes, obesity and aging.”
Bloomberg News reports that in the study, “subjects were exercised to exhaustion, which took about 70 minutes. One leg was massaged; the other wasn’t. Both were biopsied immediately after the therapy and 2.5 hours later. The massaged leg showed slower production of interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha, both linked to inflammation.”
According to the Wall Street Journal “Health Blog,” the researchers hypothesized that reducing the production of molecules linked to inflammation may be similar to the action mechanisms of aspirin and ibuprofen, both anti-inflammatory drugs.
WebMD reports, “In recent years, a number of studies have shown that remedies for muscle soreness that work by turning down inflammation – things like ice baths or anti-inflammatory medications – may also have a downside. They may also block muscle repair and growth, which depends on inflammation.”
However, according to Tarnopolsky, this study suggests that massage may be “an intervention that suppresses the inflammatory response but still allows, and actually enhances, the [recovery] response.”