Alleviating Muscle Pain Through Massage Therapy
Massage is proving to be more than a soothing technique on tense or sore muscles. Recent studies have concluded that, as one article put it, “There may be more to love about massage than the ‘ahhhhhh.'” It has been shown to be very useful in decreasing inflammation, healing muscles, and even enhancing muscle growth.
How Does Massage Relieve Pain?
In addition to icing the area and taking an anti-inflammatory, athletes often utilize massage therapy after an injury. Recent studies have underscored the value of the technique and come up with some hypotheses to suggest why it might be so useful beyond offering relaxation.
Canadian researchers investigated why massage might work in a study of 11 men who exercised vigorously and then had a series of biopsies conducted on their legs 10 minutes after and 2.5 hours after exercise. In each case, one leg had been massaged for 10 minutes after exercise, while the other was not. The doctors found that the biopsied tissue showed a decrease in inflammation (inflammatory cytokine) and an increase in tissue recovery (mitochondria) in the leg that had been massaged.
Other Studies Support The Role Of Massage In Healing
Other studies among athletes show that after 2 to 4 months of training, the mitochondria in muscle increases. As the senior author or the study, Dr. Mark A. Tarnopolsky, notes, increased exercise seems to enhance mitochondria, which suggests that massage might be a useful technique to promote muscle recovery and muscle growth. These results concur with Danish research that has found that massage and light exercise have a similar effect in easing pain.
A 2008 study that used rabbits found that muscle tissues massaged after exercise exhibit less swelling and inflammation than those that just rested. One study done in 2010 found that using Swedish massage can boost immune function and decrease stress hormones.
All of these studies have increased the interest of the medical community in seeing massage as more than simply a relaxation technique.
Therapy May Be Better Than Pills
Investigations into the value of massage have made some doctors question whether the usual technique of taking an anti-inflammatory drug. Dr. Tarnopolsky expresses concern that traditional approaches to muscle relief, namely ice and pills, might actually block muscle repair and muscle growth. As he puts it, “there is a maladaptive response in the long run if you’re constantly suppressing inflammation with drugs. With massage, you can have your cake and eat it too – massage can suppress inflammation and actually enhance cell recovery.”
At Raintree Medical and Chiropractic Center, massage therapy is often recommended as part of our comprehensive treatments plans for relief from headaches, soft tissue trauma, and acute and chronic back pain. These recent studies show that massage therapy may have even more potential for treating all types of pain and injuries.
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