How Massage Heals Sore Muscles
BY NICHOLAS BAKALAR
New York Times
A massage after vigorous exercise unquestionably feels good, and it seems to reduce pain and help muscles recover. Many people — both athletes and health professionals – have long contended it eases inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces muscle tightness. But until now no one has understood why massage has this apparently beneficial effect.
Now researchers have found what happens to muscles when a massage therapist goes to work on them.
Their experiment required having people exercise to exhaustion and undergo five incisions in their legs in order to obtain muscle tissue for analysis. Despite the hurdles, the scientists still managed to find 11 brave young male volunteers. The study was published in the Feb. 1 issue of Science Translational Medicine.
On a first visit, they biopsied one leg of each subject at rest. At a second session, they had them vigorously exercise on a stationary bicycle for more than an hour until they could go no further. Then they massaged one thigh of each subject for 10 minutes, leaving the other to recover on its own. Immediately after the massage, they biopsied the thigh muscle in each leg again. After allowing another two-and-a-half hours of rest, they did a third biopsy to track the process of muscle injury and repair.
Vigorous exercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibers, leading to an immune reaction — inflammation — as the body gets to work repairing the injured cells. So the researchers screened the tissue from the massaged and unmassaged legs to compare their repair processes, and find out what difference massage would make.
They found that massage reduced the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation. Massage also stimulated mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses inside cells that convert glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair. “The bottom line is that there appears to be a suppression of pathways in inflammation and an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis,” helping the muscle adapt to the demands of increased exercise, said the senior author, Dr. Mark A. Tarnopolsky.
Dr. Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said that massage works quite differently from Nsaids and other anti-inflammatory drugs, which reduce inflammation and pain but may actually retard healing. Many people, for instance, pop an aspirin or Aleve at the first sign of muscle soreness. “There’s some theoretical concern that there is a maladaptive response in the long run if you’re constantly suppressing inflammation with drugs,” he said. “With massage, you can have your cake and eat it too—massage can suppress inflammation and actually enhance cell recovery.”
“This is important research, because it is the first to show that massage can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines which may be involved in pain,” said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School. She was not involved in the study. “We have known from many studies that pain can be reduced by massage based on self-report, but this is the first demonstration that the pain-related pro-inflammatory cytokines can be reduced.” she said.
Getting a massage from a professional is obviously more expensive than taking an aspirin. But, as Dr. Field points out, massage techniques can be taught. “People within families can learn to massage each other,” she said. “If you can teach parents to massage kids, couples to massage each other. This can be cost effective.”
Dr. Tarnopolsky suggests that, in the long run, a professional massage may even be a better bargain than a pill. “If someone says “This is free and it might make you feel better, but it may slow down your recovery, do you still want it?” he asked. “Or would you rather spend the 50 bucks for a post-exercise massage that also might enhance your recovery?”
Benefits of Massage Improve with Frequency
By Karrie Osborn
What kind of massage client are you? Do you make an appointment after someone has given you a massage gift certificate? Do you try to get in every now and then for a stress-relieving tune-up? Or do you see your therapist religiously–once a week, every three weeks, once a month?
While getting a massage–regardless of how often–is incredibly beneficial to your mind and body, getting frequent massage treatments is even more powerful as a healthcare ally.
“Practicing massage therapists know that people who get massage regularly demonstrate greater improvement and notice a reduction in pain and muscular tension, as well as an improvement in posture,” says Anne Williams, author of Spa Bodywork: A Guide for Massage Therapists and education program director at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.
“People regularly make a commitment to fitness. People regularly make a commitment to changing their diet. The difference they’d experience if they regularly made a commitment to massage is mind-blowing,” Williams says.
One way in which frequent massage can improve our quality of life is by alleviating stress. Experts say more than 90 percent of disease is stress- related, and nothing ages us faster–inside or out–than the effects of stress. As stress-related diseases continue to claim more lives every year, the increasingly deadly role stress plays in modern-day life is painfully clear.
Massage is a great way to take charge and reverse the situation. Mary Beth Braun and Stephanie Simonson, authors of Introduction to Massage Therapy, explain the benefits of massage therapy in the simplest of terms: “Healing input influences healing output.” They note that frequent massage can reduce the accumulation of stress and improve overall health. “The benefits of massage are cumulative,” they write.
This being the case, it only makes sense that those aches and pains you see your massage therapist for might disappear faster, stay away longer, or even go away altogether with more frequent visits. Stress might never reach those physiologically detrimental levels where the immune system is suppressed or the nervous system is sent into an alarm state if you are able to receive stress-relieving bodywork with some consistency. Not only would your body benefit by regularly unleashing its aches and pains instead of adapting to them, but your mind would have time to wash away the stresses of a life lived in overdrive. Both are critical pieces for living well.
Experts say the body and mind can learn to live more calmly, more efficiently, and more healthfully, when frequent massage shows the way. That makes for a healthier whole, allowing us to continue to live life at its fullest, even as we deal with each new stress or challenge.
In so many ways, massage is preventive healthcare. Yes, it can address injuries, scar tissue, and chronic pain, as well as provide relief for cancer patients and reduce hospitalization time for babies born prematurely, among so many other valuable benefits. But when the healthy, and trying-to-be-healthy, among us seek out massage on a regular basis, it helps us live a proactively healthier life.
Since bodywork influences every system in the body, there are enormous possibilities created by increasing the frequency in which you address those systems. It’s best to discuss your session goals with your massage therapist and together devise a plan of frequency that meets your needs, while taking into account your therapist’s best advice.
According to Benny Vaughn, sports massage expert and owner of Athletic Therapy Center in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the benefits of consistent and regular massage therapy is better flexibility. “This happens because regular and structured touch stimulus enhances the nervous system’s sensory and spatial processing capacity,” he says. “That is, the person becomes more aware of their body’s movement in space and becomes more aware of tightness or pain long before it reaches a critical point of mechanical dysfunction.”
Quite simply, frequent massage puts you more in tune with your body. “The consistency of massage therapy over time creates a cumulative stress reduction effect,” Vaughn says. “The person becomes acutely aware of stress within their body long before it can create stress-driven damage.”
He says the consistency of receiving regular massage therapy has the potential to create the cumulative effect of feeling well and feeling better. “Ultimately when one feels good, our whole being follows suit on all other levels–i.e., decision-making is better, processing life events is better, and being happy is easier when you are not in pain or feeling ‘heavy’ or ‘tight.’”
Williams says she’s certain people’s lives would be changed if they could schedule massage and bodywork more frequently. “I encourage clients to commit to getting massage once a week for a month and then evaluate the results they get,” she says. “I guarantee they will become massage enthusiasts for life.”
I recently had some (much needed) deep tissue bodywork done and wound up feeling a little worse for it when I walked away. Afterwards I was sore, felt somewhat hungover and noticed pains in some new areas. With all of those negatives, I know this was still a positive experience and loved every minute of it. Myself aside, it made me wonder how many people would not appreciate it quite like I did.
You see, I understand that I was so long overdue that my tightness had built up a pretty great tolerance to manage my pain. As the worst spots are worked free, the new relativity of pain surrounding those spots can bring on the realization that your one tight spot was not alone. Not only this, but the stagnant lactic acid and toxins that are freed up from the muscles are being worked directly into the system to be flushed and can give you headaches and achiness until cleared out. Although these are really great things, the accompanying symptoms can make you feel like harm was done instead of results achieved.
Two to three days later, I am feeling great and can finally feel the full benefit of the work that was done. Since I was so overdue, I will probably need 1-2 more treatments in the near future to address all of the other old but newly prominent tightness so I can get back to feeling not ok, but great! I want people to understand that if you have been working hard and not taking good care of yourself, there may be some early hurdles to get over before feeling really great again. This is the kind of work we specialize in, but we obviously don’t want you to feel like we are harming you. By investing 2-3 hours over 1-2 months up front, you can get beyond that feeling of just returning to the gym after every appoinment. Be sure to communicate excessive pain (it doesn’t HAVE to be “no pain, no gain” – we will adjust to your desired pressure) and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS drink tons of water following your appointment to make sure that everything that is worked up is fully flushed from your system.
I had the opportunity to work with an MMA fighter (pictured) last week, which was a really great experience for both of us by the sound of it. He was/is in town for a bit to visit and train at Warrior’s Cove in St. Louis Park.
A little snippet of his feedback from an email: “I have been recommending you to others who I train with as it’s the best DTM I’ve had on the injury. I woke up in a great mood today knowing the the issue had recovered far better than I expected. The scar tissue is totaly broken down, I’m not worried about my back going into a spasm and my neck isn’t making the funny noises it was making before. Now I can really give fight prep full commitment. Just a pitty I stay in the UK otherwise I would use your services on a regular basis.”
Just wanted to write a quick note that I have added an online check-out for gift certificates. If you have been searching for the perfect gift for someone, show them how much you really care by providing them time for stress-relief or to recover from the physical tolls their activities take on their body.
Currently you will need to use the link above or that direct address to get to this page until I decide its final location within my site.
Somewhere in the middle of studying for finals this week (it’s easy to find other things to do…), I managed to finally put together a facebook page for friends, colleagues or supporters to “like” and follow. I was somewhat hard-pressed to do this as these things are popping into my requests constantly and I didn’t want to put in the “annoying” category… :) All that taken into account, many people do enjoy keeping abreast via Facebook and it is a great way to generate referrals and allow others to get to know me from a distance so they are more comfortable to come in. If you are interested in becoming a fan of Meridian Bodywork, please use the link below to “like” me. If you do join, please feel free to pass along the invitation to your friends or leave a review for past treatment you have received.
Hello to all visitors!
This new website is a more adaptive but just as useful version of my old site. While my old site was a labor of love that taught me a lot about html and how websites work, this new site takes everything I have learned and grows on it. Because it is ultimately built on a wordpress blog page, I have the ability to keep you all up to date on goings on through this “News & Events” tab.
One of the major benefits of this new site is its flexiblity in allowing me to add and remove pages and information. I have also upgraded to a new online booking tool that is easier to use on my end (making for more accurate availability) and integrates seamlessly into the website. I encourage you to take advantage of booking online to see how easy it really is!
I will be posting information on this page with regards to upcoming events, massage and health topics and things clients and followers will find beneficial. You can scroll to the bottom and subscribe to the feed by clicking on the orange button next to “stay connected:”.
I am very excited with this new look and feel and am looking forward to communicating with you often.
I have had the opportunity to be the title sponsor of a series of tennis tournaments throughout the 2010 summer. The next tournament is the Brooklyn Classic held in Brooklyn Park, MN on July 6-7 for juniors and July 10-11 for adults. Please get more information at www.meridiansummerseries.com.
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