1. Massage can help you rebuild muscle more quickly.
A new study published in Science Translational Medicine found that a massage session can reduce inflammation, which can help your muscles recover after a hard workout. Vigorous exercise causes tiny tears in muscle fibers, leading to an immune reaction — inflammation — as the body gets to work repairing the injured cells.
“What massage seems to do is … it reduces the inflammatory response as a function of the damage you incurred while you’re exercising,” explained one of the study’s authors Simon Melov, a molecular biologist at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.
2. Massage can help muscle adapt to increased demands of exercise.
Massage also seems to help cells recover by boosting amounts of another protein called PGC-1alpha, which spurs production of new mitochondria — tiny organelles inside cells that are crucial for muscle energy generation and adaptation to endurance exercise.
“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.
3. Massage aids in avoiding abdominal fat storage.
Cortisol directly effects fat storage and weight gain in stressed individuals. Prolonged stress can lead to enhanced lipogenesis (fat creation), visceral obesity (deep abdominal obesity), breakdown of tissues, and suppression of the immune system according to Christine A. Maglione-Garves, Len Kravitz, Ph.D., and Suzanne Schneider, Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico. In reducing cortisol, massage is a powerful tool for keeping your body healthy and avoiding fat storage due to the stress response. It is certainly not a replacement for proper nutrition and exercise but will help you be successful with a great health plan in place.
4. Massage boosts recovery of muscle tissue.
In another recent study, researchers put 11 young, healthy men through a strenuous workout and took muscle biopsies of both legs—before and after exercise, and after 10 minutes of Swedish-style massage. The brief massage affected two specific genes in the muscle cells. The first gene decreases inflammation caused by exercise, similar to the relief anti-inflammatory medications. The second gene turned up production of mitochondria in the muscles, which are the energy producers of cells. Mitochondria use oxygen and other nutrients to generate energy needed by the cells. As muscle cells become adapted to endurance exercise, the number of mitochondria increases. Massage seems to help this process along. Ice baths and anti-inflammatory medications can reduce inflammation, however, studies show these methods tend to block muscle repair and growth; whereas massage, appears to not only make you feel better, but also reduces muscle recovery time.
5. Get better sleep.
Sleep is of utmost importance for recovery. Fluctuations in several types of brain waves either stimulate sleep or tell you to wake up. Massage increases delta waves — those linked with deep sleep — according to a study at the Touch Research Institute. That’s why it’s common for clients to drift off on the massage table. Massage is especially beneficial in treating sleeping problems that stem from stress, migraine headache, pain, and muscle and joint stiffness.
6. Massage decreases pain.
Touch Research Institute (TRI) at the University of Miami School of Medicine has found massage may boost immunity and seems to help soothe pain from arthritis. Massage creates chemical changes that reduce pain and stress throughout the body. One way it does this is by reducing a brain chemical called substance P that is related to pain. In a TRI study, individuals with a form of muscle pain called fibromyalgia showed less substance P in their saliva, and they reported reduced pain, after a month of twice-weekly massages.
7. Massage may boost immunity.
Several studies have measured the stress hormone called cortisol in subjects before and after massage sessions, and found dramatic decreases. Cortisol, produced when stressed, kills cells important for immunity, so when massage reduces your stress levels and by lowering cortisol in your body, it may help you avoid getting a cold or another illness while under stress.
8. Massage reduces blood pressure.
Massage reduces hypertension, suggests a good deal of research. High blood pressure patients demonstrate lower diastolic blood pressure (measures the pressure in the arteries between beats), anxiety, and stress hormones. This may be because it stimulates pressure receptors that prompt action from the Vagus nerve, which regulates blood pressure, as well as other functions.
Reduce Stress and Expense
Experts estimate that upwards of ninety percent of disease is stress related. And perhaps nothing ages us faster, internally and externally, than high stress. Although we can never truly avoid stress, massage can help manage stress while helping you make faster gains in your fitness regimen.
Just like a good exercise program, regularly scheduled massages can play a huge part in how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year. Remember, just because massage feels like a pampering treat doesn’t mean it is any less therapeutic and you can save money by using tax-free funds. If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Healthcare Savings Account (HSA), massage therapy can be a qualified medical expense, as long as a physician recommends it with a written prescription. Consider massage appointments a necessary component of your health and wellness plan.
In my practice, I see many chronic conditions from the wear and tear of bad body mechanics. The trinity of resistance training, mobility work and massage is a powerful combination to bring people back to health.