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Monday, February 20, 2012

New Massage Study Shows it may Reduce Pain and Inflammation

New Massage Study Proves One Theory But Disproves Another
Allison Brooks
Article by Allison Brooks

A new study that looks at what is going on in muscle cells after vigorous exercise and massage has been published in the Feb. 1 issue of Science Translational Medicine. Though this might sound like old news, there is very little research that exists about the cellular level effects of massage. There is so little, that the researchers at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and McMaster University in Ontario, Canada had to scrape together their own funding.

However results are surprising and exciting in that they explain why massage reduces inflammation. The lead author, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky said, “we have shown the muscle senses that it is being stretched and this appears to reduce the cells' inflammatory response," he said. That sounds like a good excuse to get more massages, and it explains why a massage feels so rewarding and speeds up recovery time.

To present their research, they studied 11 men in their 20s, first taking baseline readings and biopsies. The men rode on stationary bikes, for at least 70 minutes to promote muscle exhaustion. They rested for 10 minutes while one leg was massaged using various rehabilitation techniques. Both quadriceps of participants were biopsied after massage and then after 2.5 hours.

They found inflammatory cytokines were reduced in the massaged leg compared with the control leg. Specifically, the massage decreased the effect of protein NF-kB and increased other helpful proteins, including PGC-1alpha which stimulates the production of muscle mitochondria, often known as the powerhouse of the cell.

Interestingly the common held explanation for why massage works was proved false. It was thought that massage cleared lactic acid away from the muscles; however the researchers found no change in lactic acid levels.

Tarnopolsky and his team hope these new developments will help spur research in this area and increase funding and its use. Chronic inflammation remains a major underlying factor in chronic conditions and diseases, like arthritis, as acute inflammation is found with exercising.

The researchers suggest that massage could be used as a complementary medical practice, benefiting everyone from the elderly to people who have muscular dystrophy, musculoskeletal injuries or undergoing cancer treatment. Since the pancreatic and mesothelioma life expectancy may only be a few months to a few years, aggressive treatments are used which lead to inflammation. Massage is hoped to reduce this pain and promote survivability. In the future, massage may be used as a way to reduce or omit pain medication like ibuprofen because through massage, the body activates many of the same mechanisms as present day medications.

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