Have you ever tried a massage after undertaking vigorous exercise? Yes, the feeling is undeniably good, and it even seems to ease the pain. For a long time, both health professionals and athletes knew that massage enhances blood flow, lessens muscle stiffness and relieves inflammation. However, the role of massage in soothing sore muscles has never been debunked until recently.
Rigorous workout causes your muscles fibres to tear which causes an immune reaction, inflammation, as the body tries to repair the damaged tissue. This inflammation is what brings about the pain and discomfort. To uncover the role of massage in healing sore muscles, researchers enlisted 11 young male volunteers. These men would work out to exhaustion and undergo incisions in their thighs for the doctors to obtain some tissue for examination.
First, the researchers conducted a biopsy of each of the subject’s legs while at rest. Then, the young men were subjected to a vigorous cycling workout for 70 minutes. For each man, they massaged one thigh for 10 minutes and left the other one to heal independently. The examiners then biopsied each thigh muscle immediately after the massage. After allowing the subjects to rest for two-and-a-half hours, a third biopsy was done to track the progress of the muscle repair.
The massaged thighs showed a decrease in the reduction of cytokines, compounds responsible for inflammation. Also, there were more mitochondria, cell organelles accountable for converting glucose into energy in the massaged thighs. From these discoveries, they indicated that massage helps muscles to adapt to the needs of increased exercise.
Dr Tarnopolsky of McMaster University in Ontario says that massage is a much better substitute for anti-inflammatory drugs. This is because they tend to reduce the pain and inflammation at the expense of healing the muscles. In fact, he pointed out that using drugs such as aspirin, Aleve or NSAIDs may be detrimental to your health in the long run.
While seeking a professional massage may seem like a costly undertaking compared to popping an aspirin, it is now proven to be the healthier and more effective option. A good massage after an overwhelming workout can only be compared to a double-edged sword; it alleviates pain and inflammation while still allowing muscles to heal and grow.
Furthermore, if visiting a salon for a massage regularly is too expensive, you can learn the technique and employ it yourself. The growth in the use of things like foam rollers means it’s easy to get the things you need for effective self-massage. Better yet, your spouse or other members of your family can learn how to massage. This will be a healthier and cost-effective way to soothe your aching muscles.